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First Edition . December tgog. 

Reprinted . . February iQio, Ntvember tgio. May igij. 


Foreword 7 

I. The Pilgrim Church . . . .15 

II. Star Counting and Heart Healing . 28 

III. ' Tell us Plainly ' 40 

IV. A Plea for the Priceless ... 52 
V. The Miraculous Draught of Fishes . 62 

VI. The Synagogue and the House . . 75 

VII. Mistaken Suppositions . . . . 87 

VIII. A New Year Sermon .... 97 

IX. The Open Window 107 

X. Hearing for Others . . . '117 

XI. The Lord's Song in a Strange Land . 127 

XII. Twilight and Trembling . . . 138 

XIII. Heroism 147 

XIV. The Buried Wells . . . .157 
XV. Faith and Haste 168 

XVI. The Brook that Dried Up . . .176 

XVII. 'Now Naaman was a Leper, but ' . 184 

XVIII. Consecration of the Commonplace 192 



XIX. The Large Room .... 

XX. Going in the Strength of the Lord 

XXL Inspiration and Outlook 

XXII. True Imperialism .... 

XXIII. The Hireiing Shepherd 

XXIV. The Wilderness and the Sunrise 






The simple facts of Percy Clough Ainsworth's quiet 
life may soon be written : the hidden springs of his 
influence and charm it would take long to trace. He 
was born at Woodbridge in Suffolk in 1873. His 
father, the Rev. William Ainsworth, was a Wesleyan 
minister, honoured and successful in his calling, of 
great force of character, and heroically patient under 
much physical suffering. Genius, like knighthood, 
does not pass by earthly inheritance, yet the Spirit 
who brings the gift loves to visit the home of puritan 
grace and strength. Percy Ainsworth received a 
heritage of fortitude from both his parents. 

The home was singularly sunny, with an eager 
intellectual atmosphere. Brothers and sisters vied 
with one another in fresh thought and humour : the 
good fruits of the mind were never frost-bitten. Percy 
early learned to value aright his gifts, and this training 
of encouragement helps to explain his modest self- 
reliance and secret faithfulness in following the bent 
of his original powers. His education was obtained 
chiefly at Batley Grammar School and Lincoln 



Grammar School. From the latter he matriculated 
at London University, and entered Didsbury College 
in 1893 to prepare for the Wesleyan ministry. 

He came to college with a good equipment of 
school knowledge and a habit of conscientious work, 
ready for the impulse which would make him a 
vigorous and independent thinker. Dr. R. Waddy 
Moss, whose knowledge of the students and interest 
in them never failed, writes of him as follows : ' As 
a student he read widely and profitably, thereby 
attaining a good working knowledge of the best 
English classics. He was attracted by good style 
and fond of the poets and essayists, though by no 
means neglectful of the novelty and intrinsic value of 
thought that had an ethical bearing. It can hardly 
be said that he gave promise of the ripeness in the 
pulpit which in a very few years' time he began 
to exhibit. He was a somewhat shy, self-conscious 
man, who gradually grew into the easy mastery of 
himself and his conditions. Of his character and 
influence, nothing less than the highest should be 
said, flis life at college provided exactly the kind 
of discipline he needed at that time ; and he left it 
with a wider outlook and with enforced convictions, 
and soon proved himself to be a great gift of God to 
our Church.' Those closely-packed sentences i»re 
full of insight and truth 


Percy Ainsworth's disposition was non-aggressive, 
influencing by attraction, not dominating by force. 
There was even a touch of reserve about him in those 
days. His intimate friends alone knew his fund of 
merriment, his quick eye for grotesque contrasts 
and unexpected harmonies, and his readiness in wit. 
Unexpectedness was a refreshing essential quality of 
his mind, shown in many ways. When in bachelor 
rooms, he kept a few snakes as pets, and watched 
their career with an interest half scientific and half 
humorous. He justified the strange hobby by the 
strange argument that we ought to feel a special 
compassion for the snake since it was our fellow 
sufferer from the tragedy of Eden. His range of 
interests was very wide. He was a keen athlete, 
something of a naturalist, an excellent photographer, 
and a lover of music and sketching. He published a 
good deal of poetry in various magazines. It was 
always strong in the sense of mystery and in yearning 
for the distance, with great charm in phrasing and 
a haunting musical quality. The workmanship in 
some poems is so exquisite that there is little doubt 
he might have gained no inconsiderable rank as a 
poet but for his steadfast regard to his supreme 

In all these pursuits the master motive may be 
traced — the love of beauty. In that light he looked 



at everything : by that avenue he came to his h'fe- 
work. One imagines that the loveliness of the 
Christian faith lured him in the beginning; and 
though toil and trial and contact with the sinful and 
the love of children cast him upon its mightier 
potencies ere long, he yet never lost the artist view. 
No one saw the beauty of sorrow more than he. This 
love of beauty blended with his instinctive purity to 
become the beauty of holiness in himself and his work. 
After leaving College in 1896 Percy Ainsworth was 
appointed to Horsham for a year, and then spent three 
years at Wecdon, Daventry. This might be called 
his receptive period. ' I was sent into the country,' 
he said, 'to rusticate and grow a soul.' Country life 
had an endless charm for him, and he was intensely 
happy despite the limited scope of such work. In 
1900 he was ordained at Burslem, and went to Felix- 
stowe for a three years' term. The appointment suited 
him well. The sea comforted his poetic nature, and 
the congregations of residents and summer visitors 
encouraged his preaching ability. It was the period 
when his executive powers were brought to a fine 
edge. He laboured with minute industry, counting no 
occasion worthy of less than his best. The pages of 
the local Church magazine were enriched by writings 
which are both literature and revelation, evidencing 
the ripening of thought and style. 



In 1903 Conference designated him to the care 
of Wesley Chapel, Birmingham ; and the period of 
achievement and recognition began. Early the 
following year he married Miss Gertrude Fisk, of 
Felixstowe. The event was one of God's perfecting 
touches. All our thoughts of that wedded life and 
the happy home into which his two children were 
born are saddened by the memory of its brief con- 
tinuance ; but though so short, it was without flaw or 
seam — a very perfect thing. No outward interest 
ever rivalled his joy in his home, and he was at his 
best there. 

Encouraged by the warm appreciation of his people 
and at their request, he published a small book of 
addresses on the Beatitudes entitled The Blessed Life. 
Its reception proved that Percy Ainsworth had 
received an abundant entrance into another province 
of usefulness. The Rev. Arthur Hoyle, in the 
Methodist Times, gave fine praise to the spiritual 
insight of the new writer ; and other reviews followed. 
Since then the little volume has travelled far and 
wide, even crossing the Atlantic to be seed for other 
men's harvests. His devotional meditations on the 
Psalms began forthwith to appear in the Methodist 
Times. His writing was as water from a hill-spring, 
rising from the depths and offering itself in sunshine. 
He became a welcome noonday preacher at the 



Central Hall, and was even honoured with an invi- 
tation to the historic pulpit of Carr's Lane, which, 
however, he was unable to accept. 

His last appointment was to the Eccles Circuit, 
Manchester, where he did a great work. Quietly 
pursuing the leading of God in his own spirit, he was 
the same unassuming, brotherly man — the same home- 
lover — to the end. Recognition brought him no 
foolish elation, and it could scarcely make him happier 
than industry, godliness, and ' the joy of the working' 
had made him before it came. Toward the close of 
his three years at Eccles the shadows gathered darkly 
over the home. His wife passed through a serious 
illness, and there were other like sorrows. Just when 
his friends were wondering what his next step in good 
work would be, news came that he was ill with typhoid 
fever ; and before the danger was realized, a further 
message told that on July i, 1909, Percy Ainsworth 
had passed away. His next step was that into the 
Real Presence : the period of the Life Everlasting had 

The following sermons, collected and edited with 
affectionate care by his friend, the Rev. A. Kenrick 
Smith, with the assistance and counsel of the Rev. 
F. R. Smith, are his best eulogy. Much was said about 
him by sorrowful friends at the various memorial 
services and in Conference. It is noteworthy that all 



these men, each seeking for the truest and deepest 
word to say, and without any collusion, agree in laying 
aside reverently his varied talents, his skill of words, 
his poetic fancy, his mysticism, and find the supreme 
secret of his power in his goodness. The Rev. F. R. 
Smith voiced this conclusion in his memorial sermon. 
'Percy Ainsworth could never have been Percy 
Ainsworth but for the purity of his spirit, the depth 
of his faith, and the strength of his loyalty to God and 
the service of man.' 

W, S H. 



The Pilgrim Church 

1 am a stranger in the earth, — Ps. cxix. 1 9. 

LL that lies behind these words is more easily felt 
than set forth. ' I am a stranger in the earth.' 
We cannot discover that that is a confession of faith, 
unless we first of all come to understand that it is a 
confession of feeling. There is something here as 
elusive and indescribable as the wistfulness of an 
autumn evening. It defies all analysis. It is not an 
idea. It is a mood. Now in our busy life we are 
wont to make light of moods, as it is right and neces- 
sary that we should. When there is something to be 
done, the question of whether or no we are in the mood 
to do it is of tenth-rate importance. In the presence 
of manifest duty it is our privilege to treat an unpro- 
pitious mood with scant courtesy. We may have to 
sweep it out of our path without so much as an 'if 
you please.' Indeed, that is usually the only effective 
way of dealing with moods that do not fit our tasks. 
They may seem to be slight wisps of things, but they 
have a way of barring the path of action. They will 


The Pilgrim Church 

not listen to reason. I think the psychology of it is 
this, that whenever you argue with a mood, the mood 
itself provides the argument, and, of course, has a crush- 
ing reply ready. No, nothing but a sudden rough 
handling is of any avail. It is no good asking a mood to 
stend aside and let you pass. You must knock it down 
and walk over it. Deeds, not words, is the motto for 
mere moodiness. But whilst we ought to assert our 
independence of moods in the fulfilment of our active 
duties, we are bound to confess our dependence on 
them in our quest after truth. It is part of the mystery 
of life that that which is a difficulty in one place is an 
assistance in another. The very mood that is a foe 
to action may be a friend to thought. And we need 
that friend sometimes. Some of the most precious 
things in life — visions, assurances, understandings — 
cannot be ours but by the grace of a fit and seemly 
mood. The mood does not give us these things, nor 
does its disappearance take them away from us, but it 
helps us to receive them and it helps us to know that 
we have them. 

Now when the singer of this song spoke of himself 
as *a stranger in the earth' he gave utterance to a 
mood ; but if we look for the things that went to the 
making of that mood we shall find that it stood for a 
vital and precious experience. 

Perhaps there is something here that is inwoven into 

The Pilgrim Church 

human nature. Man has always been a stranger in 
the earth ; and all his efforts to make himself at home, 
however successful they have been for the momeni^ 
have always been pitiably futile in the long run. 
Paganism in its loneliness coined the phrase, ' Mother 
earth/ but humanity has found little comfort in the 
use of it. The phrase claims that our true home life 
is here in the midst of the years. It seeks to make 
this world a homelier place than ever it can be. If it 
had been a true word, this word ' Mother earth,' then 
the red dawn would have touched men as does the 
kindling of a hearth-fire, the mountains would have 
seemed but the massive walls of a garden, the stars 
would have uttered, in their own grand way, the 
message that twinkles in the lamplight of a cottage 
window. But we know, as all who have gone before 
have known, that this is not so. Man has ever been 
homeless in the dawn. The eastern light has never 
domesticated men : it has always made them restless 
adventurers. The day comes in upon the wings of 
mystery and sometimes departs with a glory that makes 
the heart ache, we know not why. The mountains 
are sacraments of a power beyond our understanding. 
They do not offer shelter, they waken aspiration. 
They do not stand for reassuring limits, they search 
our hearts with a sense of the illimitable. And if the 
stars are lamps they light an endless pathway. And 

B 17 

The Pilgrim Church 

then there is the persistent fascination of the skyline. 
The vital point of human interest has ever been not 
the hearth but the horizon. 

Just when we're safest there's a sunset touch, 
A fancy from a flower-bell, some one's death, 
A chorus-ending from Euripides — 
And that's enough for fifty hopes and fears 
As old and new at once as nature's self 

So, speaking in a broad sense, we might say that the 
human soul has always in some dim way felt that it is 
'a stranger in the earth.' But the natural man does 
not like to feel like this. He tries to shake the feeling 
off. And with some success. True as it is that the 
earth is full of sacramental meanings, it is equally true 
that man has been able to settle down in some fashion 
in spite of them. By dint of making much of his 
body and little of his soul, tnuch of the outward things 
of life and little of the inward, much of the hour and 
little of eternity : in short, by dint of an obstinately 
irreligious attitude, he has been able to tread the 
solemn and holy sacraments of life beneath his feet 
and to reach a measure of satisfaction and comfort 
amid material things. Indeed, there is a kind of con- 
tentment and security, a certain easy familiarity with 
the world in which we live, an aptitude for trifles, a 
satisfaction with coarse and fleeting things, that is the 
Nemesis of unbelief. It is the Christian faith that 


The Pilgrim Church 

touches all this busy world with strangeness for 
us, and makes us at home in the heavenly places. It 
is faith that turns life into a brief journey through an 
alien land and kindles the real homelight beyond the 
verge of the world. This sense of being strangers in 
the earth has always marked the lives of the saints. 
They, of all men, have most deeply felt it and most 
freely confessed it. They have always sought after ' a 
country of their own,' always desired ' a better country, 
that is a heavenly.' They have never settled down, 
never felt quite at home in the world. Their hearts 
have ever been toward ' Jerusalem which is above — the 
mother of us all.' And this is the thing in the life of 
a saint that the worldling has never understood and 
never really despised. It must be conceded that the 
mood in which the world has seemed an alien land 
has sometimes taken a wrong turn, and has been pro- 
ductive of some aloofness from the common life and 
some indifference to things that, after all, really matter. 
But this mood at its best is associated with the most 
lustrous fidelity, the most splendid endurance, the 
most catholic sympathy and the most ungrudging 
service the world has ever known. 

Perhaps the Church is too much at home in the 
world. We talk much about meeting men on their 
own ground, about understanding the spirit of our age, 
about keeping abreast of the times. Within certain 

B 2 19 

The Pilgrim Church 

very narrow limits there is truth in these phrases ; but 
there is not in all of them put together, and in all 
kindred pleas and policies, one atom of the truth that 
saves the world. There are some who would have the 
Church sit at the feet of the successful business man. 
They rise in our councils, these baptized worldlings, 
and talk as if the things we really need could be picked 
up in the head ofTice of a smart and hustling firm. 
They say we do not speak the language of the people 
and are not sufficiently in touch with all the swift, 
subtle changes in the world's shifting and complex 
life. And such criticism is wrong, as all shallow things 
are wrong. It is not this world we need to know better, 
it is the other world. It is not the language of the 
street we need to master, it is the language of the 
kingdom where He reigns whose voice has the music 
and throb of many waters. We need to move with 
surer step and keener vision and warmer response 
amid eternal things. The busy, self-satisfied, success- 
ful world may respect us in a way for knowing some- 
thing of its methods and manifesting some familiarity 
with the inner fashion of its achievements ; but the 
world in the main is neither successful nor self- 
satisfied. The sick and the dying, the heartbroken 
and the desperate, the burdened and oppressed, will 
fmd nothing in our easy up-to-dateness to encourage 
them to trust us with one shamefast confession, one 


The Pilgrim Church 

spiritual difficulty, one precious secret of hope or fear 
or sorrow. 

It is to the stranger in the earth that the fore- 
wandering souls of men instinctively turn. He is 
the only man who never loses his way. It is to him 
that men have ever come in their confusion and their 
despair. It is the sojourners in the world, the mani- 
fest travellers to a better country, who are made the 
confessors of troubled hearts. It is the pilgrims of 
the faith who have the only availing mission to this 
world's deepest bitterness and unbelief. Of course, 
we cannot travel through the world as the patriarchs 
travelled through it. We cannot emulate in the 
outwardness of things the simplicity of the early 
Christian Church. Our complex organization is 
inevitable. It were foolish to gird at the 'office 
work ' involved in much of our religious enterprise. 
Our closer touch with the various movements for 
dealing with all kinds of social disability and distress 
will probably increase rather than diminish the need 
for such work. Since civic and political machinery 
exists and provides a medium for the expression and 
enforcement of moral and spiritual convictions, let 
the Church make the most of it. The cry of ' No 
politics' is sometimes raised by the devil. But let 
the Church, having made the most of all the means 
for doing good provided by the methods and develop- 


The Pilgrim Church 

ments of our corporate life, know that that ' most ' is 
not very much. Let us not think that all this means 
getting into touch with the world. We are never so 
near the world, in the one way in which it is worth 
while being near it, as in those precious hours when 
all but God and heaven is touched with strangeness 
for us ; and when the heart within us knows, as it 
knows nothing else, that it seeks a city out of 

The Church has sometimes tried to impress the 
world by her material resources or by her political 
influence. She has competed with the financier and 
the diplomatist for the prize of power. And she has 
failed, as it was utterly right and inevitable that she 
should fail. She has been the home of learning and 
the mother of the best civilization ; but it is not for 
these things that her children love her, nor is it 
for these things that the world at the last will do 
her honour. Her real work to the world has always 
lain in this, that she has kept the music of a pilgrim 
song ringing in men's hearts, making it impossible 
for them to settle down to the gain and comfort of 
the hour, easily forgetful of the venture of faith, the 
crusade of righteousness, and the pilgrimage of love. 
She has roused life's truest wander-thirst in a world 
too ready to be content with the thing that is nearest, 
to take the obvious and immediate for its portion and 


The Pilgrim Church 

its prize, and to try to build a comfortable house 
where there is scarcely time to pitch a tent. 

And the power to do this is the most precious 
thing the Church has ever possessed. Far beyond 
her mission and power to make this world endurable 
she must rank her mission and power to make the 
other world real. There may be a danger lest this 
supreme charge of the faith should lose its supremacy 
with us, and lest we should think to win and hold the 
people on lower and less spiritual terms. 

You will not misunderstand me when I say that 
we may make too much of our duty to fight against 
everything that robs men and women and little 
children of any of the physical comfort, the material 
advantage, the intellectual and social opportunity 
that should be theirs. This is our task — a task that 
the Church shares with many who ignore her faith 
and contemn her vision. But there is a task that is 
hers alone, and that is to put men in touch with the 
eternal world of love and truth and peace — their 
spiritual fatherland. These two tasks are insepar- 
able, but they are not identical. Some think that by 
means of its newly aroused social sympathies and 
activities the Church will rehabilitate herself in the 
eyes of the world. My friends, in as far as such 
rehabilitation is necessary, it will take a great deal 
more thap sogial activities, and institutional methods, 


The Pilgrim Church 

and all the paraphernalia of temporal reform to 
accomplish it. We do an injustice to the religion 
we profess, and to the souls we seek to save, if we 
think we shall gain the ear of the world by an 
economic gospel. We shall succeed at last in the 
work God has given us to do. The kingdom will 
come ; but it will only come as we bring to a social 
programme that seems to be in complete touch with 
the situation, a faith that makes us strangers in the 
earth. When men speak of Jesus of Nazareth as 
having been at home in the world, as having spoken 
the language of the people, as having taken an interest 
in the simple round of daily life, they are only playing 
on the surface of all that Christ was and of all that 
He meant and did. He was gracious, patient, self- 
sacrificing, accessible in the world, but He was at 
home in the heavenly places. He used words that 
were familiar and simple, and spoke of things men 
saw about them, but His words always took men 
beyond the thought of house and field, bread and 
home, neighbour and kinsman. Men felt that He 
saw something they did not see, and that His deepest 
care for them often began just where their care for 
themselves ended. He spoke their language and 
seemed to tread their path ; but they saw that no 
man ever spake as He spake, and the best among 
them knew that He came from God and went to God. 


The Pilgrim Church 

And over the lives of all who love and serve Him He 
has written these words : ' They are not of the world, 
even as I am not of the world.' Do you not think 
that we are in danger of attaching too much outward 
significance to those words and not enough inward 
significance? What are the distinctive features of 
a Christian in the world ? Beauty of character ? 
Yes ; but there are beautiful lives that do not profess 
any religious faith. Integrity of conduct? Yes; but 
there are many lives outside the pale of the Church 
in whose business and social relationships and dealings 
it would puzzle you to find a flaw. But the Christian 
ought to be somehow better than all the kindest and 
most honest men who do not possess his secret. 
Surely it lies in his final attitude toward life — his 
whole valuing and handling of the world. He ought 
to have this higher loyalty, this spiritual patriotism, 
this otherworldliness that does not wholly reveal 
itself in the practice of life's common virtues, much 
less in any eccentricities of habit, but in the subtle 
texture of character, in the aroma of influence, in the 
wistfulness of the soul's outlook. I say it is these 
things (things that no man can describe and no man 
can counterfeit) that mark the Christian in the world 
and plead the cause of the eternal life with the world's 
heart. Even against a background of high morality 
the Christian should stand out. We say that a man 


The Pilgrim Church 

is as honest as the daylight, and we seem to have 
given him high praise. But you apply that phrase 
to St. Stephen or St. Paul — or, may I say, to Jesus 
Himself — and it becomes almost an insult. 'They 
are not of the world ' — no, not even of the world at 
its best. Morality enables a man to face the world 
with an unflinching gaze ; but it cannot teach him to 
hold the world with a loose grasp. Unworldliness at 
the last is not a matter of ethics : it is a matter of 
outlook. We say sometimes that we feel such a man 
is good. It isn't a calculation : it is an experience. 
We know beyond all argument that he is not of the 
world. He belongs elsewhere. And, my friends, I 
believe with all my heart that we are all called into 
and capable of a faith that would give to our lives 
the same haunting, heavenly influence. 

There are other things gathering around this phrase, 
' A stranger in the earth,' of which one would like to 
speak. One might point out how this sojourning 
spirit is woven into all life's availing courage and 
patience. One can bear a good deal on a journey. 
As Thomas Champness used to put it — and surely it 
was one of the loveliest things he ever said — ' It's easy 
passing milestones when you're going home.' 

But let it suffice us to remember just this, that to 
be in touch with human needs we must be filled with 
heavenly satisfactions ; that the world will never be 


The Pilgrim Church 

one whit the better off for our diplomacies and 
stratagems, our clever opportunism and our time- 
bred familiarity with life ; and that all the really 
precious things in our earthly heritage are found 
in the track of a band of pilgrims. 



Star Counting and Heart Healing 

He fualelh the broken in heart ; ... He telUth the number of the 
stars, — Ps. cxlvii. 3, 4. 

IT is not easy for us to get these two thoughts into 
our minds at the same time. Still harder is it 
for us to think them as one thought. It seems such a 
far cry from ail the stars of heaven to one poor bleeding 
heart — from those myriad points of fire to a few 
human tears. We see the sweep of the stars, and we 
walk in the shadow of pain ; but in the bitter things we 
suffer, how little use we make of the great things we 
see ! The stars set us dreaming and yearning. They 
carry us out beyond the landmarks of history and 
the chart of experience. And then just one sharp plea 
wrung from life in its sore need — and there are no 
stars. In a moment we are shut up to the short view 
of life. So easily we get lost in the littleness and the 
bitterness of things. When the heartbreak comes 
the starlight goes. Yes, sometimes just a little dust 
of the road can put the stars out for us. But fiow 
comes all this about ? Why do starlight and trouble 


Star Counting and Heart Healing 

so often stand unrelated thoughts in our minds, un- 
related fact in our lives? One answer is found in the 
make of our minds. With us one idea often excludes 
another that really belongs to it. We have not a 
large enough mental grasp. We look up at the stars 
and we forget our little world ; we look out upon our 
little world and we forget the stars. We lose the 
years in the thought of the hour, and the hour in the 
thought of the ages. We seem unable to hold on to 
a great thought when we are in one of life's narrow 
places; yet it is just in that narrow place that the 
great thought can do most for us. We live by hours, 
and so we count by hours. We are pilgrims, so our 
standard of measurement is a step. In our frag- 
mentary thinking we draw dividing lines across the 
undivided, and fail to see that the limited and the 
illimitable are not two things but one. We stumble 
over the very axioms of life. We say it is obvious 
that the part belongs to the whole ; but we often act 
as if the whole were one thing and the part were 
another and entirely different thing, and as if there 
were no discoverable relation between the two. So 
when this great word about the God who numbers the 
stars is given to us we say, Let me get away from my 
little world and think it out. And we do think it out 
— out of our reach, out of our experience, out of our 
lives. When shall we learn that we cannot get the 


Star Counting and Heart Healing 

best out of a thought simply by thinking it? To get 
the real help of a great thought you must trust it, you 
must live it. Nowadays many people are so busy 
thinking things out that they scarcely ever think 
anything in. And it is the truth you think into your 
life that really counts. And to do that, thought must 
clasp hands with faith and love and toil. From a 
purely speculative and intellectual point of view, I 
defy any man to preach a gospel of comfort from the 
text, ' He telleth the number of the stars.' Many a 
man has felt his helplessness and his loneliness beneath 
the stars. He has said, God is immeasurably remote 
from my little life down here among the shadows. Is 
it likely that amid the vast and intricate calculations 
of the universe He will take account of an insignificant 
fraction like my life? How should He think upon me 
when He has all the stars to count ? How should He 
miss me from the fold when He is shepherding all the 
heavenly hosts ? Thus for some the greatness of God 
has been made to spell the loneliness of man. That 
is the shivering logic of an intellectual conception of 
the Deity. The psalmist who spoke of star counting 
and heart healing in the same breath had got beyond 
that. The deep, persistent needs of his life had 
brought him there. It was not by a mere chance that 
he chose to speak of heartbreak when he sought to 
link earth with heaven and to lift the fretful mind of 


Star Counting and Heart Healing 

man up to the thought of God's eternal presence and 
power. Heartbreak is not an idea, it is an experience. 
Yes, and it is an experience that only the stars can 
explain and only divinity can account for. It is only 
in these words, linking stars and hearts together, that 
we can find a noble and a satisfying interpretation of 
pain. Why do we sufifer? We suffer not because we 
are akin to earth, but because we are akin to heaven. 
The final secret of life's pain lies in life's high and 
eternal relationship. We have a present kinship with 
the stars and with all they stand for. They stand for 
the things above us and beyond us, whereof the possi- 
biHties and the beginnings are within us. We cannot 
help wanting to reach them, for the true life of our 
heart comes from beyond them. It is a greater thing 
than we have counted it to be. Its native air is blown 
from beyond the stars. It is up there above the star- 
light that you must find the explanation of the 
stricken conscience of the sinner and the yearning 
heart of the saint. Heartbreak is not to be regarded 
as a rare and tragic episode in the human story. This 
worKl only knows sorrow as an incident. It is, for it, 
a cloud upon the sun, sometimes darkening all the 
after day. It is a voice of weeping or a choked silence 
in the shadowy dusk of the river's edge. But, my 
friends, the last true sorrow of life is not on this wise. 
It is not dealt out to one here and another there as 


Star Counting and Heart Healing 

a bitter judgement or a wholesome discipline. It is 
inwoven into life. To miss it is to miss life. It is 
the price of the best. It is the law of the highest. 
When after what we sometimes call the long farewell 
you have seen a sorrow-stricken man bearing a 
bleeding heart out to the verge of the world, beyond 
the last outpost of earthly sympathy and beyond the 
kindly kingdom of human help, you have seen some- 
thing for which earth has no healing — but you have 
not learned anything approaching the whole truth 
concerning heartbreak. There is the broken and the 
contrite heart, the heart that is seeking sainthood, and 
fainting and failing and aching in the quest. There 
is the broken and the yearning heart, that strains and 
throbs with lofty longings and the burden of the valley 
of vision. And to find healing for such sorrow a man 
must find God. And He must be the God who counts 
the stars. * He telleth the number of the stars.' 
That is a grand, breathless thought, but it is not too 
grand. No thought of God narrower and lower than 
that can ever truly comfort us. Only the Infinite can 
heal the soul. God could not minister to strained 
hearts if the stars were too much for Him. The 
mystery of the stars and the n))stery of human pain 
are parts of one great mystery that is no mystery to 
God, for He dwells beyond it in the light of perfect 
knowledge, and penetrates it wholly with the warmth 


Star Counting and Heart Healing 

of perfect love. And that is the vision that the 
human heart will always need. And that is the 
vision that is fading from some men's minds to- 
day. Modern theology — at any rate a certain large 
school of it — is in danger of belittling the greatness 
of God in its attempts to show His nearness. The 
immanence of God is a very precious and a very 
glorious truth, but I think some are in danger 
of forgetting just now that this truth owes 
all that is vital and efficient in it to God's 
transcendence. There was a time when the preacher 
used to give out for his text, ' Behold, the nations are 
counted as the small dust of the balance : behold, He 
taketh up the isles as a very little thing.' He 
preached the glory and the wisdom and the power of 
God until men saw the universe as but one ray of 
all that glory, one word of all that wisdom, one deed 
of all that power. And with that tremendous back- 
ground he preached the effectual comfort of the ever- 
lasting Father. Some are getting afraid of that back- 
ground. And we need to remind ourselves that the 
human heart needs it and demands it, and will never 
be truly satisfied with anything else. There is nothing 
else large enough for you to write upon it the meanings 
and the sanctions and the purposes of God's healing 
mercy. But to look at it from man's side, the gospel 
that is to bring availing and abiding comfort to a 
c 33 

Star Counting and Heart Healing 

world like ours needs a tremendous background : it 
needs a transcendent sweep. If you have a doctrine 
of the divine immanence that veils the stars — that 
seems to make the truth of God a more familiar and 
compassable thing — that silences the challenge of 
God's lonely sovereignty and His transcendent and 
mysterious glory, you have not got the doctrine that 
will meet your deepest needs or win a response from 
the depths of other hearts. This shame-stricken, 
yearning world needs the glory of God as much as it 
needs His mercy. Jesus came to reveal both. ' The 
Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (*and we 
beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of 
the Father) full of grace and truth.' We can go back 
into the ages before Christ came, and learn from the 
psalmist how to apprehend and deliver the gospel of 
God's saving grace — how to interpret and apply God's 
final and complete message of healing, sent forth into 
the broken heart of the world. He tellcth the number 
of the stars. He healcth the broken in heart. The 
singer of that song linked the healing of man's broken 
heart with a profound and transcendent conception of 
God. And the healing of man's broken heart to-day 
is to be linked with a profound (not intellectually, but 
morally profound) and transcendent conception of 
Jesus Christ. Christian people need to be on their 
guard to-day lest the naturalistic atmosphere that we 


Star Counting and Heart Healing 

cannot help breathing (even if sometimes it nearly 
chokes us by its lack of oxygen) should lead us un- 
consciously to place a too humanitarian emphasis on 
the gospel of the divine Saviour. You may remind 
men that Jesus drew lessons for life from the lilies 
and the birds ; how that He was glad to watch the 
patient oxen drawing the simple plough through the 
brown earth (just such a plough as He Himself had 
fashioned many a time in the carpenter's shop at 
Nazareth) ; how, maybe, He loved the smell of the 
fresh-turned furrow and the swing of the sower's arm 
as he scattered the seed ; how He smiled on the 
little children and talked with the tanned and bearded 
fisherman on the shores of Tiberias. But do not think 
that this is the story that brings Christ nearest to the 
heart of the world. We sing — 

Be with me when no other friend 
The mystery of my heart can share; 

And be Thou known when fears transcend, 
By Thy best name of Comforter. 

In our weakest and loneliest hours, in the most inward 
and essential necessities of our lives, it is the mastery 
and the mystery of the eternity of Christ that we 

O to have watched Thee through the vineyards wander, 
Pluck the ripe ears and into evening roam ; 

Followed, and known that in the twilight yonder, 
Legions of angels shone about Thy home. 

C3 35 

Star Counting and Heart Healing 

How tremendously true are these words of the poet 
to the heart's real need and experience. This troubled 
world does not find peace at the feet of the gracious 
and inspired and morally perfect Prophet of Nazareth 
uttering words of wisdom amid the vineyards and 
in the path through the cornfields. In its profound 
spiritual sorrow and need, led by the instincts of a 
broken heart, it has followed the Christ home through 
the twilight of His humanity on into the glory of His 
divine Sonship and the light of His eternal dwelling- 
place. It is to the kingliest and profoundest and 
most transcendent words of Jesus that the human 
heart clings. Go to that devout man who lost his 
dearest friend but yesterday, and ask him what 
Scripture he read ere he went out this morning into 
a lonely world. But there ! you need not ask him. 
You know what it was. ' In My Father's house are 
many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.' Or 
go to that man whose heart is aching under the strain 
of terrible temptation, and ask him what word of the 
Nazarene is sheltering his soul, and maybe he will say 
unto you : ' My sheep hear My voice, and I know 
them, and they follow Me. And I give unto them 
eternal life ; and they shall never perish, neither shall 
any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, 
which gave them unto Me, is greater than all ; and no 
man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. 


Star Counting and Heart Healing 

I and My Father are one.' My friends, let us not 
think that by emphasizing the godhead of Christ we 
make Him less real or less near to the hearts of the 
children of men. It is the godhead of Christ that 
keeps Him near us. It is the mystery of Christ that 
heals us. 

Do not think those are foolish words, or that 
I am straining after a paradox. It is a matter 
of common knowledge that the central truth of the 
gospel — even the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of 
the whole world — has been the focal point of the 
mightiest thought-conflict of all history. That con- 
flict has not subsided. The thought of the Christian 
Church has not yet met in one common theory of 
the atonement. And you are well aware that the 
leaders in this fight have often been men of saintly 
lives, who have not failed to find perfect satisfaction 
and peace and hope at the cross of the world's 
Saviour. And if there is one paramount lesson to be 
learned from this battle, where many theories claim 
the right to account for one experience, it is this, that 
the Saviour has to pass our highest comprehension in 
order to meet our deep need. ' He telleth the number 
of the stars. . . . He healeth the broken in heart.' Do 
not be afraid to put these two facts side by side. Do 
not be afraid to carry too divine and mysterious and 
ineffable a gospel to a suffering world. For it is to 


Star Counting and Heart Healing 

just such a gospel that the human heart will respond. 
That new school of theology to which I have already 
made reference has tried, in the interests of what it 
hoped would be nearer and clearer teaching, to draw 
a veil across all the mystic starry facts in the gospel 
story. It has said : ' Men cannot believe in the in- 
carnation of the Son of God. Science has made it 
impossible for men to believe in such a scientifically 
lawless event' But ages before science was born, sin 
and sorrow and the mysterious fathomless needs of 
the human soul had made it impossible for men to 
believe in anything less stupendous and divine. It 
has said : ' It is no good preaching a gospel of miracle 
in a clear thinking age like this.' And it has given 
the world a Christ that few can understand and no 
one can trust. It has underrated human need. It 
has compassed the heartbroken with a thievish and 
impotent philosophy. It has overlooked the fact that 
a thing may be to a man at once and consciously an 
intellectual difficulty and a spiritual necessity. My 
friends, the Christian creed is not a great intellectual 
production : it is the voice of the Christian experience 
trying to utter the unutterable. It is the outcome not 
of what men have thought, but of what they have felt. 
It is full of that which baffles the mind of the dialecti- 
cian and builds the life of the saint. And when men 
have spun their last specious and compassable theory 


Star Counting and Heart Healing 

of religion and of life, the weary and heartbroken 
children of men will be found breaking through the 
meshes of argument, sweeping away the human 
glosses from divine truth, and casting themselves 
instinctively upon that mystery of mercy and might 
that is as the mystery of the stars. Yes, and finding at 
the hands of the God who counts the stars, the touch 
of healing and the clasp of love. 



'TeU us Plainly' 

If Thou art tht Christ, tell us plainly.— ]o\\s x. 24. 

THE significance of this appeal does not dawn on 
us all at once. Brought before the judgement- 
bar of ' first sight' it may succeed in passing itself ofT 
as a blunt but honest and worthy attempt to find the 
truth. But first sight is often blindness : and that is 
how it comes to pass that so many of the judgements 
delivered in life's court of first inquiry, where things 
are decided in the twinkling of an eye, have to be 
reversed. And our text is a case in point. If we 
look at it carefully we shall come to see that this 
plea the Jews made to Jesus, so frank and clear in 
form, was blind, irreverent, and unjust. ' If Thou art 
the Christ, tell us plainly,' The underlying assump- 
tion of that plea was that the person and place of 
Jesus Christ could be summed up in a sentence, made 
plain in a few words, concluded in a brief, positive 
statement. As such, this plea betrayed ignorance 
of the true nature of spiritual knowledge, the most 
dreadful ignorance in life. It revealed a wrong 


'Tell us Plainly' 

attitude towards eternal truth. It was an utter mis- 
conception of the meaning and method of a divine 
revelation. It flouted the precious mystery of the 
gospel. It ignored the sacred message of life's 
parables and the vital teaching of its sacraments. 
It utterly discounted the tremendous power of 
spiritual suggestion, and discredited all the truest 
instincts of the soul. And most of all, and worst 
of all, it belittled the person and teaching and whole 
fact of Christ. And keeping in touch with these 
thoughts, without perhaps following any one of them 
very far, I would have us gain such a view of the nature 
of spiritual truth, and of the way it is made manifest 
in human life, as shall save our minds and hearts 
from the darkness — the narrow temporality of this plea 
that the Jews made to Jesus — ' Tell us plainly.' 

All speech has its limitations, and the plainer the 
speech the narrower are those limitations. A plain 
truth is necessarily a small truth. If you are deter- 
mined to say a plain thing you must be content to 
say a very little thing. If plainness is your one object 
you are committed to a fragmentary conception of 
truth. Of course, I am speaking of the world of abid- 
ing spiritual realities. You can summarize all the out- 
ward facts of life. You can put exact account of the 
weather into a sentence. And wherever it is possible 
to be terse and concise and sharply definite, it is our 


'Tell us Plainly' 

duty to try to be so. In our concrete life, amid all 
outward things, most of us would be better understood 
if we said less. The things of the hour demand a 
plainness of speech that befits the definition and 
brevity of the hour. It is our duty to put a thing 
into a nutshell — if it is no bigger than a nut But 
when we try to put illimitable truth into a nutshell, 
we leave a good deal of it out. And that which we 
may think we have stated we have probably misstated. 
Limitation is own brother to perversion. History tells 
us that it has never been more than a few steps from 
the shrine of the partly true to the shrine of the wholly 

If a man can always say what he means, then he 
does not always mean enough. A man may sacrifice 
the eternal, the essential, the mysterious, the imperish- 
able in the interests of plain speech. lie may come 
unconsciously to distrust the thing he cannot state — 
which is very likely the one absolutely trustworthy 
thing in his life. And by-and-by there may come 
a day when his collection of sharp definitions, and 
compassable half-truths, and literal explanations shall 
seem to him to exhaust the meaning of life. He has 
fashioned out of the hours and the occasions of life a 
local universe, an infinity caught and destroyed in 
the coils of an explanation, an eternity that is written 
on the face of a clock. He has fallen into that most 


'Tell us Plainly' 

subtle materialism that has done so much to weaken 
the force of Christian dogmatics, and that has made 
blind hours even in the lives of the saints ; the ma- 
terialism that seeks to imprison for ever a living and 
growing thing in a final and inelastic form, to deal 
with the infinite as if it were finite, and to set limita- 
tions to the illimitable — in the name of plainness. 

But if you leave the last word of the Jews' plea out 
of your reckoning, the plea itself is still a pitiably 
blind and vain one. ' If Thou art the Christ, tell us.' 
That appeal, as it stands, reveals an utter ignorance 
of the way the truth advances in the earth and makes 
its conquests in the souls of men. That advance and 
conquest are not made essentially by means of words. 
The truth depends strangely little upon verbal state- 
ment. Think of some of the great moments in our 
common earthly experience, and you will find that even 
there silence is the guerdon of life's highest knowledge 
and most abiding assurance. We watch the path of 
the dawn growing wider across an eastward sea, or feel 
the infinite suggestion of skyline at eventide, or listen 
to immortal harmonies until we hear, as Keats has 
put it for us in one of the greatest lines in our language, 
'the music yearning like a god in pain,' or we find the 
bitter-sweet meaning of love, or stand by a grave as 
deep as our heart, and lo ! we know something that 
could never have been told us and that we can never 


'Tell us Plainly' 

tell to another. Our silence may be the silence of the 
inarticulate, but it is also the silence of the enlightened. 
We know with a clearness compared with which the 
clearest speech is mere jargon. We see with a vision 
that words, like a flock of birds, would only darken 
with their wings. 

And as it is with such great moments in our inner 
life, so it is with life's most sacred relationships. The 
two great bonds of social life are justice and love. 
Look at these things. Consider the very terms of 
their existence. Honour, one of the loveliest blooms 
of justice, dwells in silence. It is an unutterable thing. 
To try to state it is to make it something less than it 
is. To explain it is to make it impossible. To fling 
it about in gusts of words, as men have flung it, is to 
reduce it, as men have reduced it, to a mere fiction, 
void of all that is vital and binding. Without honour 
life at its best is impossible. But honour is the last 
thing that is mentioned among honourable men. If 
they speak of it we know some one has lost it, and 
words will never bring it back again. Or what need 
of words has love ? They are not merely unnecessary, 
they are confusing. To assert some things — and love 
is one such thing and chief among them — is to cast 
suspicion on their reality. If there are conditions that 
seem to demand their declaration, these same condi- 
tions make that declaration vain. And the lesson of 


'TeU us Plainly' 

this law of silence running through life is just this. 
The knowledge of a thing comes not by the tell- 
ing thereof. No man was ever told anything finally 
worth knowing. No hearsay ever broke the silence 
of life's inner room. It is not by means of the 
utterances, the assertions, the dictations and defini- 
tions and reasonings of them that teach that ever any 
man gained one truth for the everlasting succour of 
his soul. The hours that bring the truth into a man's 
soul are hours when the truth stands before him, in all 
its radiant beauty too fair to need adorning, in all its 
splendid strength too strong to need support, in all its 
final and irresistible simplicity too simple to be in- 
terpreted. And the question of how many and how 
luminous these hours shall be we each decide for our- 
selves. Jesus Christ came to kindle that light of 
truth for us in every hour and place of life. He has 
made all the hours luminous for the humble and 
obedient heart. In Him the eternal truth is always 
with us. That which we call the blankness of our 
outlook is really the blindness of our hearts. For a 
man given up to his prejudices, his passions, and his 
sins, every hour is a blind hour. It is the better will 
and not the clearer mind that catches the first gleam 
of that true light that lighteth every man that cometh 
into the world. In the matter of everlasting and final 
truth no man can be intellectually certain whilst he is 


^TeU us Plainly' 

morally undecided. When the Jews said, ' If Thou 
art the Christ, tell us plainly,' they ignored all this. 
They failed to grasp the moral and spiritual nature of 
Christ's Messiahship. They did what men, to their 
endless perplexity and distress, have done in all ages 
— they confused between information and assurance. 
They missed the real reason for Christ's presence in 
the world. Jesus did not come primarily to tell men 
anything. Jesus came rather because the world had 
been told all it could be told. The ministry of 
voices and messages had reached its limits. Age 
after age the Word had come to men through priest 
and judge and prophet. Age after age the great 
preface, ' Thus saith the Lord,' had rung in men's 
ears and called to their hearts. And it was not 
enough. On this wise God Himself could not make 
His world wise unto salvation. So the Word was 
made flesh. God clothed Himself not with language, 
but with life. Christ is not God's messenger to the 
world — He is God's message. So He answered the 
questioning Jews, ' I told you.' 

When had He told them ? When had He not told 
them ? His presence in the world, His character. His 
spirit, His whole life, were one ceaseless utterance of 
eternal truth. And if the Jews did not know this, 
Jesus could not tell them. Statement could not 
succeed where influence was unavailing. If }lc did 


*TeII us Plainly' 

not convince them, His words were of no avail. If 
they did not feel something of what He was, they 
could not accept anything He might say about Him- 
self. For as He stood before them He gathered into 
His own person the first and last meanings of good- 
ness, truth, and love. In answering Philip's blind and 
disappointing plea, ' Show us the Father,' Jesus 
fastened upon one privilege, one supreme opportunity 
that Philip had failed to turn to much account, and 
it was the privilege of living under Christ's influence. 
' Have I been so long with you and hast thou not 
known Me?' In these words Jesus surely appealed 
to something stronger than any claim He had made, 
more wonderful than any work He had wrought. My 
claims may have staggered you, My works may have 
mystified you; but, Philip, what about Me Myself? 

In the case of another disciple, still more clearly did 
Jesus point out the way of the soul to Himself. 
When Simon made his great confession, 'Thou art 
the Christ, the Son of the living God,' he won the 
joyous benediction of Jesus. But why ? ' Blessed 
art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood hath 
not revealed it unto thee.' Simon had heard that 
which could not be uttered. He had grasped that 
which could not be formulated. He had understood 
that which could not be explained. He had responded 
not to what Christ said, but to what Christ was. 


'Tell us Plainly' 

His moral and spiritual attitude was the precise re- 
verse of that revealed by the plea, ' If Thou art the 
Christ, tell us plainly.' He had companied with 
Jesus and communed with Him and learned to love 
and obey Him ; and so he came where all who do this 
have ever come, into touch with that eternal truth of 
God that no words are strong enough to carry or 
clear enough to set forth, the word beyond all words. 

And we can all come there if we will. Jesus, who 
could not answer this plea of the Jews for a plain 
statement concerning Himself, always assumed that 
He did not in the first instance require to be ex- 
plained to any soul that really needed Him. Perhaps 
we who would preach Christ overlook that fact. Per- 
haps we spend too much time explaining Christ, and 
not enough proclaiming Him. ' Him that cometh 
unto Me I will in no wise cast out.' ' Come unto Me 
all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give 
you rest.' 

Jesus stood in the world open-armed. He called 
to men amid their burdens, toils and sorrows, amid 
the very things that confuse the mind, and crush hope 
and enterprise, and make for indifference and despair. 
And it follows that He must be life's simplest and 
most easily found fact for us all. There must be 
some perfectly simple point of contact between every 
human life and the divine Saviour. And there is, 


*TeII us Plainly' 

We need but to accept the verdict of our conscience, 
the ultimatum of our human weakness, the sorrow 
that waits for every sinful soul in the dreadful quiet- 
ness of life, and lo ! our trembling hands have touched 
the Christ, and if we will let Him He will hold us 
fast for evermore and lift us surely up to all the light 
and love of God. But when we have touched the 
fact of Christ we have not grasped it. And it is just 
here that so many go wrong. It is here that the 
foolish and sometimes petulant plea, ' tell us plainly,' 
comes in. People underrate the tremendous sweep 
and the profound reach of the fact they have just 
touched. Jesus is not only the simplest need of the 
human soul, He is the supreme fact of the universe. 
He is at once the source and gathering-point of all 
the scattered light which from the dawn of human 
history to this moment has led man in his quest after 
God. The fact of Christ is a stupendous fact. It 
stands alone, not because it is distinct from all other 
facts, but because it includes them. Every man is 
needy enough if he but knew it, and maybe humble 
and morally earnest enough, to find the fact, but no 
man shall ever be wise enough to compass the fact. 

My brother, perhaps, like some of old, you are wait- 
ing for a plain word. You think that some day you 
will find the gospel of Jesus summed up for you in a 
lucid sentence by the preacher, made clear and self- 
D 49 

'Tell us Plainly' 

evident in a creed by a theologian, carried beyond all 
doubt by a bit of terse logic. Remember this, if you 
forget all else, that Jesus does not begin by telling us 
anything. He touches us. Your unrest, your heart- 
hunger, the haunting shame of your yesterdays, the 
haunting beauty of the ideal, the longing for purity 
that will not be stifled, the judgements whispered 
in the inner room, and all that sets you wrong with 
yourself and the brother at your side and your Father 
in heaven : all this, I say, is the work of the pierced 
hands of Eternal Love upon your soul. And it is 
vain to ask one question till you have answered that 

And suppose we grow impatient of the shadows 
and the mysteries that hang over and surround the 
path of faith. We forget that the Christ whose hand 
of mercy is stretched out, and who was so simply and 
tenderly here amid the shadows of our pilgrimage, is 
the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all 
creation, and that He is before all things and in Him 
all things consist. We forget the cosmic note in such 
claims as these : ' I am the bread of life,' ' I am the 
light of the world,' ' I am the way, the truth, and the 
life.' It is not in one hour but in every hour of life 
we come to find or miss the Christ of God. It is not 
by one act but by every act of life we draw near to 
or pass away from the eternal Saviour. He is for 


'Tell us Plainly' 

us the very world in and beyond the world. He is 
the total circumstance of the soul. And whilst one 
humble, tear-blurred look into His face of pity, one 
frail but earnest groping for His hand of help, one 
cry to Him out of the darkness and weakness of our 
soul, one quiet, solemn, life-deep vow of amendment 
by His grace, shall make us His, yet we need every 
throb of our heart, every thought of our mind, every 
instinct of our soul, every avenue of our being, every 
hour of our life, yes, and surely all that waits us in 
that timeless life beyond the years, to bring us from 
the outer rim of light on towards the glowing centre ; 
to bring us from the first tremulous hope and assur- 
ance of the awakened soul on into the vast, immeasur- 
able certainties of Christian communion, and the vast, 
immeasurable possibilities of Christian sainthood. 

Da 5t 

A Pica for the Priceless 

// might havt been sold. — Mark xiv. 5. 

THAT suggestion came from Judas. That was 
all he could find to say about the precious 
ointment poured forth from its alabaster vase in the 
service of love. The Bethany circle had united to do 
honour to Jesus, A meal was served in the hou-e of 
Simon the leper, possibly because his was the most 
commodious house available. Look at the picture. 
The Master in the place of honour. The disciples 
near Him, Martha waiting at table, Lazarus looking 
out on things with the light of his second life in his 
eyes, Mary with the inner vision of a loving heart 
reading in the Master's face a shadow of things to 
come. A hush in the talking. Mary kneeling at the 
Master's feet, the broken vase, the perfume floating 
through the room. A silence in which love eternal 
was trying to say something to each man's heart; 
then, as is often the case in life, the first man to break 
the silence was the man to whom the silence had said 
nothing. ' It might have been sold,' — and we feel 


A Plea for the Priceless 

that vandal feet have trampled the vase and its 
precious burden into the dust, and that the roar of 
the market has swept into the sanctuary of one 
worshipping, love-laden, life-laden moment. Judas 
gazed with unseeing eyes upon one of those things so 
central in the literature of the world, but so rare in 
its life — a spontaneously dramatic scene. He mis- 
handled a beautiful situation. And his bad taste 
does violence to our artistic sense. But, my friends, 
we have to deal with something far more serious 
than bad taste. It is very easy to overestimate the 
value of taste. In all the higher civilization of the 
world there is a tendency to allow good taste to atone 
for bad character. Aesthetics — with its pseudo- 
spirituality — usurps the moral authority of the judge- 
ment-seat of life. Refinement is substituted for 
reformation, and among some people a polished sinner 
gets more respect than an uncouth saint. These 
people charge Judas with taking a business view of 
the situation. But the real charge to be brought 
against him is that he got no view of it at all. If he 
sinned against art, it was not art as it is interpreted 
by the aesthetic temperament, with its not seldom false 
and uncatholic view of a workaday world, with its 
profound conviction that a man who paints pictures 
must be altogether superior to a man who makes 
boots — it was against art as it stands for the unpur- 


A Pica for the Priceless 

chasable and imperishable and eternal — and that is the 
fabric of man's true life. That little pale-faced mite 
who stopped you in the street yesterday as you were 
carrying home a bunch of flowers to your wife, and 
said, 'Give me a flower,' was not a beggar. She was 
an artist. It was her response to the vision beautiful. 
Her plea for the priceless. It was a voice confessing 
amid the rattle of the street that ' man doth not live 
by bread alone.' 

Judas stood among the priceless things that day in 
Simon's house, and the plea for them was stifled in 
his soul. He was not, as a certain false aestheticism 
would make him out to be, a worse man for keeping 
the bag. Some one must keep it. But the pity of it 
was that Judas had come to believe that the bag could 
keep him. And that is the peril against which we 
must be on our guard. Not specifically as business 
men, for this is not essentially a peril of the market- 
place. Broadly stated, it is the danger of becoming 
lost in the temporalities, earth-fed and earth-filled. 
It is the danger of trying to express the whole of life 
in terms that apply only to a very small part of it. 
Commerce is just what men make it. The heart that 
seeks first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, 
the love that seeketh not its own, can make a man's 
ledger a poem of honesty and charity worthy a place 
among all beautiful things; but if he never gets beyond 


A Plea for the Priceless 

market values, if there is nothing of all that he loves 
and lives for that he cannot ticket with a price, if he 
knows much of what money can do and little of what 
it cannot do, then he is blind in the house beautiful, 
starved amid the bounty of the Lord. 

Judas missed in Simon's house not a dramatic scene, 
but an eternal truth. Only a shallow and unspiritual 
judgement will think less of him for knowing the 
selling-price of alabaster and nard. His sin lay in 
that he had lost the power to see in these things a 
sacrament of ' the life that is life indeed.' But it 
would be an empty vindication of Judas to say that 
his suggestion is 'true as far as it goes.' A thing has 
to go a certain distance before it begins to be true. 
It has to touch the spiritual and eternal in life, and 
Judas missed that. And so this man, with his market 
price and his mental arithmetic, was not an intruder 
— he was an outsider. He was not inopportune, he 
was unspiritual. He was heartblind. The fact that 
he priced the gift proves that he never saw it. To 
have seen it was to have known it was priceless. 

O these priceless things — how we miss them! How 
Jesus pleaded for them ! And Judas had companied 
with that unworldly life, had heard the Master say 
that Solomon in his state robes was not so well 
dressed as a wild flower, and that the widow's half- 
farthing was worth more than the jewels of the 


A Plea for the Priceless 

rich, and that the cup of cold water was worthy a 
heavenly reward ; had heard the rich promises of the 
kingdom pledged to the poor of the earth : and yet he 
had not learned that there are things too beautiful to 
be sold. All the best things are given away. Do we 
realize what a ghost and travesty of possession lurks 
in the act of purchase ? You can buy a book of 
poems : the soft bindings are yours, the gilt edges are 
yours, the handmade paper is yours, but not the 
poetry. No man was ever rich enough to buy a poem. 
If it is his, he must have it as the unpurchasable gift 
of God to his soul. And as surely as you cannot buy 
a poem, so you cannot buy a home, or a happy hour, 
or a good conscience, or a rich hope. Trite old story, 
yes, but we must go on telling it till the vital truth it 
implies has fashioned the practices of the world. And 
it can — for the positive side of this teaching is the 
doctrine of grace. God's mercy for the undeserving, 
His treasure for the poor. His fullness for the empty. 
The wealth of our lives is the love that brings the 
vision beautiful and welds men heart to heart, the 
sympathy that gives insight, the faith and hope that 
enrich the spirit, the morning joy of Jesus in the souls 
of them that crown Him and the lives of them that 
serve Him. 

'It might have been sold.' 

That is, I think, the most vulgar remark on record. 

A Plea for the Priceless 

How that wonder of love in Simon's house was 
cheapened for the man from Iscarioth ! How the 
shadow of a material judgement obscured for him the 
spiritual dignity and glory of Mary's service I Judas 
did not know what he was dealing with. He may 
have been an authority on spikenard. Perhaps he 
could have told us the precise meaning of that strange 
viordpistikes, which St. Mark used to describe the oint- 
ment, and which bids fair to remain one of the minor 
puzzles of his Gospel. But he was not dealing with 
alabaster and spikenard. And, my friends, we never 
are. Life is made up of things that defy all valua- 
tion by this world's standard — things the worth of 
which can only be expressed in that mystic coinage 
that is stamped with the image of One wearing a 
crown of thorns, and has for its superscription, ' Ye 
did it unto Me.' 

And it is missing these things that degrades and 
vulgarizes life. For some of you this service is a 
brief pause in the day's work. You must be back at 
your work at two o'clock. Yes, but what are you 
going back to? Back to sell so much of your time 
and strength to your employer for a certain wage. 
That is a life any man might well learn to despise. 
But hear the plea for the priceless. Take that back 
in your hearts. You can handle goods and earn 
wages, but, O my brother ! there is more in the day's 


A Plea for the Priceless 

work than that. ' The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, 
peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 
meekness, self-control. Against such there is no law' 
— yes, and on such there is no price. They are the 
rich gift of God to your soul, and you have the 
ennobling right to give them to your brother, who 
will never be rich enough to buy them at your hands. 
Go back to your work with His Spirit in your hearts, 
and, instead of being a wage-earner, you shall be a 
dispenser of the means to live, and for you the leaden 
shackles of earthly necessity shall be transmuted 
into the golden freedom of love and truth, and 
minted into the largesse of willing service. 

' It might have been sold.' 

We have heard a good deal recently about the 
simple life. The one eternal authority on the simple 
life said, ' A man's life consistcth not in the abund- 
ance of the things that he possesseth.' If the setting 
of life is to be simple, the aim and content of life must 
be spiritual. It is not primarily a matter of earthly 
economies. It is not a matter of learning to live 
within your income. That will not solve the problem. 
It is the attempt to do that which is making the 
problem. Multiply your income by anything you like 
and still it will not keep you. The simplest thing 
that goes to make life is beyond your income. 

In the world of the heart no man can pay his way. 

A Plea for the Priceless 

The extravagance of the rich and the thriftlessness of 
the poor are ultimately accounted for by blindness to 
the priceless things. So, my friends, let us take this 
dictum of Judas : this classic utterance of materialism, 
and judge it by that life which Jesus has revealed to 
us — the life that trusts the fatherhood of God and the 
saviourhood of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the 
Spirit ; that is lived by the faith that transfigures 
duty, and the prayer that links life's poverty to God's 
illimitable resources ; the life that loves mercy and 
justice, and looks for the city of God beyond the 
earthly need and the earthly nightfall, — and we shall 
see the frightful falseness of the material estimate of 
life, and shall become both prophets and exponents 
of the sublime simplicity of living. 

And now let us follow Judas from Simon's house 
to the house of his Master's enemies. We must do 
this. We cannot deal with the three hundred pence 
and say nothing of the thirty pieces of silver, for they 
are part of the same calculation. The blindness in 
the house of Simon and the bargain with the chief 
priests are parts of the same thing. The man who 
cannot sec the priceless is quite capable of selling it. 
That is the logic of history. That is the tragedy of 
materialism. This man sold his honour, his place in 
the brotherhood, the great trust of his life, and the 
very love of God. Men little think what impieties, 


A Plea for the Priceless 

treacheries, and shames lurk beneath the materialistic 
appraisement of life. This is peculiarly a peril of the 
city. Our brethren who till the soil and wait in field 
and garden for God's sunshine and His rain have all 
about them a sacrament of the priceless things. But 
we who dwell amid so much that is artificial, so much 
that is not easily suggestive of the unseen sources 
and spiritual values of life, may perhaps think our- 
selves in special danger of judging earthly judgements. 
But, after all, whether a man drive a ploughshare or 
drive a bargain, there is but one way of escape from 
the peril of the earthly view and the earthly valua- 
tion — a peril never far from the hearts of the children 
of men. And that is in the evangel of the grace of 
God. Art has fought in vain with the coarse and 
stubborn materialism of the world. Aestheticism, 
with its eclectic disciplcship and its demand for a 
measure of intellectual refinement, has never been 
able to make the pica for the priceless a real factor 
in the life of a workaday world. Only Christ can do 
that. In His cross He has revealed life to us as the 
priceless gift of God to every humble, lowly, penitent, 
and obedient heart. 

Nothing in my hand I bring, 
Simply to Thy cross I cling. 

If once a man has come empty-handed to the mercy 

of God in Christ ; if day by day he stretches out 


A Plea for the Priceless 

these same empty hands to the Giver of life ; if his 
heart has tasted of the fullness awaiting him beyond 
the voices of the market and the pledges of the world 
— then beauty and truth and love and all the 
spiritual reality of life are his, and the basal plea for 
the priceless is for ever wakened and answered in 
his soul. 


The Miraculous Draught of Fishes 

And Simon ansv-'ering said un!o Him, Master, ive have toiled ail 
night, and have taken nothing ; nr<.ertheless at Thy command I will let 
down the net. — Luke v. 5. 

I PURPOSE to treat this incident of the miraculous 
draught of fishes in a more or less parabolic way. 
We shall be standing by the Sea of Galilee, but we 
shall be thinking and speaking of the sea of life. 
We shall be watching a few fishermen coming ashore, 
first with empty boats at dawn of day, and then 
with boats laden almost beyond the point of safety 
with a great catch of fish ; but behind the picture 
I want us to find some of the inner meaning of 
success and failure upon wider and more perplexing 

But before we take up the parable let us be quite 
sure that we have fast hold of the miracle. Since the 
text is a miracle, and the sermon is going to be a 
parable, a word of explanation is perhaps necessary. 
At any rate, this kind of exegesis needs to be carefully 


The Miraculous Draught of Fishes 

safeguarded. One of the tendencies of modern 
teaching is to take refuge in parables, because the 
atmosphere just now is supposed to be trying to 
miracles. There are so many self-appointed wonder- 
slayers in the world. The latest St. George — a not 
too attractive or inspiring figure be it said — has ridden 
forth glittering from helmet to spear with a shining 
preparation known as ' the new light ' to slay the 
dragon of mystery. The mistake that he and his 
followers make is this. They think mystery is some- 
thing that can be localized, tracked to its lair, and 
finally encountered. They do not feel how inescapable 
and intimate a thing is mystery. It is in the loom of 
mystery that the thread of our life is spun. Mystery 
is the very make of us. It is the atmosphere we 
breathe. To slay the mystery of life a man would 
have, soon or late, to slay himself But until he has 
some vision of the suicidal issue of his undertaking 
the wonder-slayer puts all his heart into his work. 
And one of his favourite expressions when he is deal- 
ing with this ineffably mysterious Book is the word 
'parable.' He snatches this and that great Old 
Testament or New Testament story out of our hands 
and tears the historic framework out of it, and then 
hands it back to us a nerveless and shapeless some- 
thing that he calls a parable. In the name of the new 
light — a thing very reminiscent of ancient darkness — he 


The Miraculcxjs Draught of Fishes 

confiscates the wonder, and majesty, and divinity of 
some great scriptural scene, and then, with a generosity 
that some of us entirely fail to appreciate, he says, 
'There, I won't take it all ; you can keep the lesson.' 
And I am afraid many people are disposed to try 
to get along with that. There is a danger of our 
being more conciliatory at times than the fundamental 
principles of the divine revelation really justifies. We 
are prone to say concerning the miracles in the story 
of Jesus, ' Well, never mind whether or no it really 
happened. There are some very beautiful lessons to 
be learned from it. Let us learn the lessons, and leave 
the miracle alone.' Now, as far as some incidents are 
concerned, this might seem a profitable and pacific 
way of using our New Testament ; but it involves 
a profound mistake. It suggests that the real need 
of the world is a few gracious, timely lessons. But 
the failure of so many teachers — teachers with music 
in their voices, sympathy in their hearts, and logic in 
their minds — gives the lie to that suggestion. My 
friends, the world's great need is not a lesson, it is a 
miracle — the crowning, all-inclusive miracle of grace. 
Jesus lifts us not as we call Him Rabbi, but as we 
call Him God over all, blessed for ever. So we 
must insist on the miracle. A man might find a 
plausible explanation of a great haul of fish ; but 
having explained that and a few other wonders, he 


The Miraculous Draught of Fishes 

has to explain an empty sepulchre ; and some — God 
forgive them ! — have done that, with much talk about 
credulity and the growth of legend, and have turned 
their pledge of immortal victory into an outworn 
romance born among a few credulous enthusiasts. 

So as we take up a parable this morning, let us do 
it with a full sense of the miracle within and behind 
it — not necessarily a miracle of creation, but certainly 
a miracle of knowledge. Let us assert the wonder of 
the tale, not because we would pay some arbitrary or 
orthodox tribute to the divinity of Jesus Christ, but 
because these passion-haunted, sorrow-laden, storm- 
driven lives of ours need a wonder, a supremacy, a 
miracle of help, compared with which the swift filling 
of two empty boats is but a simple thing. And now, 
with a good conscience, to our parable. 

' We have toiled all night, and have taken nothing.' 
That was not the first vain night by a good many 
that they had spent on the Sea of Galilee. Mind you, 
these men were no novices. They knew their busi- 
ness. They had known the Galilean Sea from their 
boyhood — all its moods and tempers, its dangers and 
its possibilities. The story of their bread-winning life 
had been told upon its waters. They were experts, 
and their boat was empty. They had worked hard 
and worked wisely, and the sea had beaten them. 
In spite of the instincts and love of a lifetime on 
« 65 

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes 

its waters, it can send a man ashore with an empty 

And on the greater sea where you and I do our 
work the same story is ever being told. It is a diffi- 
cult story to understand. It is beyond us all. The 
failure of the foolish, the incompetent and the lazy is 
a foregone conclusion. But how often do we see the 
wise, strong, earnest, capable souls coming from their 
toils with nothing to show I It is a piece of pitifully 
false reasoning that would account for the seeming 
vanity of effort by suggesting that the man who made 
it was incompetent. Some of the best-equipped lives 
the world has known have seemed to be associated 
with failure rather than with success. For all of us 
periods of unfruitful and unrewarded toil are only too 
familiar. For the fisherman in the bay, for the toiler 
among human souls, life holds something not for- 
tuitous, but incalculable. There is always the un- 
known quantity, always the equation we cannot solve. 
It would seem that it is not the will of God that we 
should in our toil for Him feel ourselves masters of 
the situation. It must be enough to know that He is 
Master of it. No Christian worker can say, ' My work 
is there. I hold every thread of it in my hands.' 

When I left college and went to my first charge, 
in a Sussex village, I took, as became a probationer, 
a lordly and spacious suite of rooms at the village 


The Miraculous Draught of Fishes 

wheelwright's. My window looked into his yard. I 
could see him at work — and I sometimes envied him. 
He could make a cart-wheel. He could finish it. 
He could promise it for the day after to-morrow. 
And I, I could not say for all my praying and preach- 
ing when these rough farm lads or that poor village 
toper who always came to service on Sunday even- 
inc^ — and always sober, except once at a harvest 
festival — would be fashioned unto God's high uses. 
Soon or late we have to learn that maybe it is beyond 
the range of our wisest reckonings that we read the 
profoundest articles of our working creed. The sea 
is His and He made it, and the spoils of land and 
heart are in His keeping, and without Him we can do 
nothing. Life is so fashioned that, whilst we can all 
see the value and necessity of trying to become ex- 
perts, yet the hours teach us that more precious than 
any skill of service we shall ever attain unto is the 
simplicity of our faith and the depth of our patience. 
Again, success and failure are deep and inward 
things. No surface judgement ever truly appraises 
them. The world reads failure in an empty boat. God 
reads failure in an empty heart. * We have toiled all 
night, and have taken nothing.' Well, what of that ? 
That is no tragedy if you can say, ' We have toiled 
all night, and have lost nothing.' This is where 
you begin to see right into the heart of the worker's 
K 2 67 

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes 

failure — not the thing he did not win, but the thing 
he did lose. 

Hopelessness, indifference, weak despondency, fool- 
ish desperation, cynical unbelief, these are the things 
that go to make real failure. It is not our ignorance 
and clumsiness that baffle the Almighty — it is our 
despair. When Peter put out into the night on the 
former of the two ventures with which we are con- 
cerned, he had his skill, his experience, his calculations. 
He had noted the hour and read the sky — and he 
came back with an empty boat. The next time he 
put forth, all these things had become secondary 
matters. The simple, sufficient inspiration of his 
second venture was the word of his Master. It is 
evident from something that St. John says that this 
was not Simon's first meeting with Jesus. Fresh 
from His baptism in Jordan and His trial in the 
wilderness, Jesus had met and talked with Simon, 
and the seeds of a splendid faith were already germi- 
nating in the disciple's heart. ' Nevertheless at Thy 
command I will let down the net.' I am afraid we 
do not always get so far as that. ' We have toiled 
all night, and have taken nothing.' Too often that is 
our reply to the Master as He bids us launch out into 
the deep — bids us hope, and believe, and endeavour. 
We meet Him with a bit of barren experience. We 
fling in His face the bitter cry of life's unfruitful 


The Miraculous Draught of Fishes 

hours — and for the response of faith we substitute the 
misleading logic of an empty boat. 

' We have toiled all night.' The night was the 
right time for fishing. If they had had no success 
then, what chance was there in the glare of the sun ? 
Oh how we arc snared in the traditions of our toil ! 
How we are limited by the little that we have had 
time to justify ! How conventional and unenterprising 
are these hearts of ours in the wide world of the 
spirit ! Fancy putting to sea in the middle of the 
morning ! Everything was against it, except the word 
of the Master; but Simon came to know ere his life- 
work was done that that is the most tremendous and 
significant exception in all the world. We talk about 
the exception that proves the rule. This is the excep- 
tion that transcends the rule — that shows the rule to 
be, not as we supposed it a rigid law of life, but rather 
part of the foolish bondage of our faithless and 
timorous spirits. My friends, there is a danger lest 
we should know better than to do the things that 
would help us to succeed. There is a failure that 
comes of putting experience before faith. Sometimes 
we are too wise to succeed — worldly-wise. There is 
one with whom the darkness and the light are both 
alike, and ever His word avails in the lives of them 
that are willing to receive it. God's word is never 
inopportune. The commandment of Heaven always 


The Miraculous Draught of Fishes 

interprets the real and unseen possibilities of the 
situation. Obedience is success. Therefore let us 
have done with our poor little atheistic time-limits, 
our prating of the probable and the seasonable, our 
o'erweening respect for the almanac, and let us trust 
the timeless wisdom of our God, whose voice is in our 
hearts every day. 

' launch out into the deep and let down your nets.* 
That was simple enough. Just the old way — the 
familiar means. That is a word for the novelty- 
mongers and the sensationalists — the people who 
believe in a creed of surprises, in salvation by aston- 
ishment, who w^ould always be giving the world 
something to stare at, a gospel of interesting bewilder- 
ment. Some of this way of thinking, when they get 
tired of railing at the 'old teaching,' turn their atten- 
tion to the old building in which that teaching is 
given. 'A fig for your fine old sanctuary !' they say. 
' You will never save a soul in this town till you build 
a central hall.' In their less ambitious discontented 
moments they concentrate on the pulpit and the choir. 
' Down with that pulpit. The gospel that reaches the 
people must be preached from a rostrum. And as 
for the choir — well, the sweet singers in Israel need 
drowning in the tumultuous waves of a vast orchestra.' 
My friends, the workers in the Manchester Mission 
know that I am not suggesting a breath of disapproval 


The Miraculous Draught of Fishes 

of the means used to reach the masses in our great 
towns and cities. If I grew hoarse with denunciation 
it would make no difference. The thing has justified 
itself ten times over. The Church must speak to the 
world in a way that will win a hearing and a response. 
Let us have no cast-iron forms. Let us not be the 
slaves of precedent. But I do say three things. To 
all who prate contemptuously about the 'old teach- 
ing' I would say: Novelty is a He. It is born of 
shallowness. When you ask for a new gospel, you ask 
for something that is not true. Penitence, and faith, 
and i)rayer, and faithfulness, and the love that seeketh 
not its own — these are the timeless things. To those 
who have lost their faith in their own local sanctuary 
whatever its architecture, I say, You never had any 
business to be putting your working faith into bricks 
and mortar. What you really need is not a central 
hall, but a central faith. You are worshipping the 
accidents of religion and unconsciously contemning 
the essence of religion. You want a new boat, and 
the latest thing in nets, and some patent bait — and 
you cannot hear the voice of Christ bidding you 
without another thought about boat and tackle, 
launch out and let down your nets. And to all of 
you, I say that in the story of Christian service history 
repeats itself because it has nothing better to say, 
We need more faith in the possibilities of routine. 


The Miraculous Draught of Fishes 

We need to become interpreters of life's monotonies. 
The path of the familiar, trodden with the voice of 
Christ in a man's ears, has ever led on to the splendid 
surprises of life. ' Launch out and let down your 
nets.' Go out to your work in the world, the toils 
that custom has staled and long familiarity has be- 
littled, and know that the beaten path of life skirts the 
kingdom of the miraculous, and leads into the divine 
wonderland, if only we hear ever afresh the call of 

Again, these men succeeded where they had failed. 
The old sphere of their labours was the sphere of their 
reward. Some people have but one suggestion to offer 
when they have failed. It is this: 'We will try 
somewhere else.' Because the}- have caught nothing 
they conclude that there is nothing to catch. That is 
often the logic of the self-inflated and the impatient ; 
but in some way or other the thought comes to most of 
us now and again. It is perhaps only natural that we 
should dream of better work in a new field. We all 
have to face some element of the uncongenial and the 
adverse. We tire of the setting of our task. Wc 
ministers, with whom the familiar thing is unfamiliarity 
and the abiding thing is a constant moving on — well, 
we get tired of that. We all need to know that the 
one vital necessity of our lives is to be sought, not in 
the setting, but in the spirit of them. Any boat will 


The Miraculous Draught of Fishes 

do if Christ bids you launch it. Any hour is a harvest 
hour if Christ bids you let down the net. 

Just one other thought. The men who succeeded 
were the men who had failed. Failure is not a 
standing disability in the service of the kingdom. 
In the world it is sometimes a final disqualifica- 
tion, an unpardonable sin. The world says to the 
failures, ' Stand aside and let some one else try. 
You have had your chance. Now make room for 
a better man.' He is always a better man, this 
man who has not tried. The world is quite agree- 
able that the boat should be launched again, but 
it stipulates for a different crew. And some are too 
ready to accept the stipulation and drop out. I 
wonder how many ministers last year received at 
least one note from a steward, a leader, a Guild 
secretary, containing the phrase, ' Let some one else 
try.' Note the way of Jesus. 'Launch out,' you men 
who but lately came ashore with empty nets. That is 
Christ's way with the depressed worker. It may be 
that here to-day some of us have a keen and humiliat- 
ing sense of the futility of some past days. It may be 
that there is a sigh of despondency in our hearts, a 
shadow of indifference upon our outlook. Our work 
has taken a good deal out of us. No work is any good 
that doesn't do that. The price of our best work is 
heartache. But whilst the aching is at its worst and 


The Miraculous Draught of Fishes 

the bright end of endeavour is for a while out of sight, 
we are tempted to think many foolish things — tempted 
to discount the worth of it all, tempted to criticize 
the conditions of our labour or to distrust the issue 
of it. 

My friends, I dare say we need many things, more 
skill, strenuousness, patience ; but most of all we 
need one thing — an ear tuned to catch through the 
urgencies, difiiculties, monotonies of life the voice 
of the great Master of our souls and of our toils. We 
need the faith folded in Simon's word, ' Nevertheless 
at Thy command.' Oh, if only we can go out into the 
world to pit the command of Christ against our 
weariness, our sense of difficulty, and (a harder thing 
to do) against the reckonings of our experience and 
the earthly probabilities, then, come what may, each 
hour shall count for all it ought to count for, and the 
end shall be the highest success of all, even the doing 
of God's will. 


The Synagogue and the House 

IVhrn they were come out of the synagogue they came into the house.— 
Mark i. 29. 

THE synagogue and the house, the church and 
the home, the sanctuary and the street, worship 
and work, religion and daily life — these things have 
ever a tendency to dwell apart in our thought and 
vision. They each have a meaning for us, but so 
often these meanings clash. They seem to gather 
round different things and to lead in opposite directions. 
And our failure to bring these things together — the 
spiritual distance that so often lies between the syna- 
gogue and the house — accounts for all our other failure 
to harmonize and understand the manifold experiences 
of life. It is very difficult for us to realize the unity 
of life. We think that wc miss seeing it because of 
the endless and bewildering diversity of human ex- 
perience, because life is so broken up, the 
hours seem to contradict each other and the vital 
sequences of events are so often hidden from us. 


The Synagogue and the House 

But the true explanation of our inability to unify 
life lies not in the fact that human experience is 
thousandfold, but in the fact that it is twofold. Caper- 
naum has gone, and the earth has long since drawn 
its veil of green over the site of the synagogue where 
Jesus sat and taught, and of the cottage where dwelt 
Simon the fisherman ; but the synagogue and the 
house stood for things upon which the }cais can leave 
no obliterating dust. They stood for life's most 
difficult antithesis, for its most profound and crucial 
paradox. They remind us that heaven and earth are 
ever calling to our hearts, ever laying hands upon 
our lives. They teach us that the real battle of life 
for us all has to be fought out, not between this hour 
and the next, but between every hour and the life 
everlasting. They symbolize the needs of the soul 
and the needs of the body : the two communions that 
together fulfil life for every man, fellowship with 
God and fellowship with humanity. And so I want 
us just now to watch Simon and Andrew, James and 
John, with Jesus in their midst, making their way 
through the narrow, crooked streets of a little fishing- 
town from the synagogue on the hill to a cottage 
on the shore. And I want us to learn as we watch 
them something about the oneness of life in Jesus 

Jesus had but recently called these four to follow 

The Synagogue and the House 

Him. What authority and what tenderness, what 
power of appeal and suasion there was in that voice 
we can but dimly imagine. We know this much at 
least, that it won these fishermen from their boats 
and their nets, and from that Galilean sea whose 
moods and music were woven into their very lives. 
They had left all to follow Christ. And it has ever 
been so. To hear amid the murmur of the world's 
busy life the pleading of the Eternal Love, and to go 
forth to answer that call without one regretful gaze 
upon boats, and nets, and a sunlit sea — this is the 
first great step towards understanding life and towards 
finding out that the synagogue and the house are one, 
and that there may be a profound unity and harmony 
in all the changing hours. The preface to the true 
philosophy of our own history is one word, and that 
word is ' obedience.' If life is to have but one meaning 
it must have but one master : and that Master must be 
Jesus Christ. 

Jesus took His four followers into the synagogue. 
They had never been present at such a service in all 
their lives. They knew the synagogue and its service 
passing well. They had been taken there as boys 
by their respective fathers, Jonas and Zebedee ; and 
maybe they had not seldom been hard put to it, not 
only in those early days, but in more recent times, to 
keep some semblance of interest in the niggling and 


The Synagogue and the House 

perfunctory homily, full of distinctions without differ- 
ences, and the glorification of trifles. But that day 
the Preacher gripped their souls. Deep springs of joy 
were loosened in their hearts. Such a large, generous, 
fearless utterance had never before been heard in the 
synagogue at Capernaum. Law and tradition and 
ritualism had been preached there for years, and many 
a wear)', wintr)- time the poor folk had had. But 
that day a new Preacher had come to Capernaum, 
and the Preacher's name was Love. And whenever 
Love preaches, life cannot help listening. Yes, and 
a poor helpless life was saved that Sabbath morning. 
The quiet of the service was broken by the cry of a 
man with an unclean spirit : a most unorthodox pro- 
ceeding in the light of a more recent evangelistic 
tradition. There ought to be something to help that 
man whenever we gather together in public worship. 
I am afraid some of us forget him. I am afraid we 
are inclined to assume he is nut there. But in the 
light of a clearer vision of God, a humbler gaze into 
the face of the sinless Christ, may he not be m) self, 
yourself? Some thread of penitence is woven into 
all true worship. It will be a sad day when the 
Christian Church forgets — or wiien any company ol 
people within its wide borders forgets — that the cry 
of the man with an unclean spirit has ever been the 
birth-cry of a new and living worship. 


The Synagogue and the House 

When Jesus went forth to preach, Judaism had 
become a religion without vision and enthusiasm, 
without heroism and moral passion, without sym- 
pathy, and so without a message that could get home 
to the heart of a poor devil-mastered man. Then 
Jesus came — and the same synagogue could not hold 
Christ and the devil, and never a stir in the atmo- 
sphere. And that remains true when the last word 
has been said about the psychology of conversion and 
the subtleties of the modern temperament. I quite 
believe that a just recognition of the various intel- 
lectual and temperamental changes that take place in 
the common mind and life of men makes for the true 
furtherance of the gospel. By all means let us ac- 
knowledge that we to-day are less introspective, less 
subjective, in some ways less emotional than our 
forebears ; but all these and kindred considerations do 
not make us less sinful, nor must we let them chal- 
lenge or obscure the simple and direct message of 
divine grace. Perhaps we have heard enough for a 
while about the things that change. We rrjust re- 
assure and reconvince ourselves of the things that 
change not — the all-mastering Christ and the sin-laden 
soul. Modernity is becoming almost a fetish with 
us. People clamour for an up-to-date gospel. Why, 
the very plea is a belittling of the gospel ! It is the 
glory and genius of the gospel that it makes nothing 


The Synagogue and the House 

of dates. It is a timeless and eternal power. And it 
is the power that matters. 

Perhaps it is only fair to say a word to those who 
make a fetish of the b)-gone. There are some who 
read that verse, ' And the unclean spirit, tearing 
him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him,' 
and they refuse to believe that man can find spiritual 
freedom without being nearly torn to pieces in the 
finding of it. They cannot believe in a miracle unless 
they see a disturbance : and, alas, some of them think 
that having made a disturbance they have worked 
a miracle. My friends, it matters little what way 
the unclean spirit goes out of a man's life, but it 
matters everything that it does go. It matters 
everything that you and I so pray and believe and 
worship before God that every man's sin shall cry 
out within him and be driven forth — and that 

But we must not stay any longer in the synagogue 
at Capernaum. Let us follow Jesus and His four 
disciples nut again, down the straggling street through 
the Sabbath sunshine, beneath a cottage doorway. 
There was a fever-stricken woman in the house. And 
they tell Him of her. And He took her by the hand 
and the fever left her. The miracle in the synagogue 
was followed by the miracle in the house. The 
cottage on the shore became as wonderful a place as 


The Synagogue and the House 

the temple on the hill. And the lesson of it all is 
the oneness of life in Jesus Christ. 

' When they were come out of the synagogue.' That 
is just where the difficulty of life comes in for most 
of us. These four fishermen stood that morning in 
the place of worship, and the word of Him who spake 
as never man spake carried them out beyond the fret 
and triviality, the weariness and sorrow of their lives. 
But had they gone down alone to their cottage with 
the fishing-nets dr)ing in the sun, a too familiar sacra- 
ment of their hard and perilous struggle for a living, 
and with the feeble voice of a sick woman unconsciously 
taking up the tale of the sorrow and frailty of life, they 
might have felt, as many do feel, that it is a long way 
from the synagogue to the house. Worship and 
work might have seemed to them to be in two different 
worlds. The mercy of the altar might have seemed 
to have little to do with the sorrow of the hearth. 

But Jesus went with them. He had come to teach 
men the way from the synagogue to the house. The 
path of His life lay through them both. In Him 
the gulf between them was for ever bridged and the 
difference in their final significance for ever blotted 
out. It is Jesus Christ who has delivered religion 
from the tyranny of place and time and form. The 
faith of human hearts has always tended to make too 
much of places. We trust too easily to some high 
V 8i 

The Synagogue and the House 

and reverent circumstance, and accept too weakly the 
dictation of some sad or difficult situation. We have 
our here and our there. I suppose the local always 
comes before the universal. The only way to the 
everywhere lies through the somewhere. Doubtless 
centuries of pious pilgrimage to Gerizim and to 
Jerusalem did something to prepare men for that 
great word that at once defined and universalized the 
place of worship : ' Believe Me, the hour cometh, when 
neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye 
worship the Father.' There has to be a synagogue ; 
but the value of it for every man who enters it has 
always been its nearness and its likeness to the house. 
The value of religion lies not in its contrast with daUy 
life, but in its communion with daily life. Jesus has 
made worship something better than a beautiful thing 
to be with difficulty recalled to help us in life's 
unlovely places. 

We talk about coming to God's house and getting 
away from the moil and pain of things. And that is 
part of the value of worship. It does bring, at times, 
a sense of escape. It does record great hours of the 
soul. But, better still, it teaches us by the grace of an 
abiding divine fellowship that the prosaism and un- 
loveliness of life arc but the fictions of our blind and 
unresponsive spirits. We have worshipped as we 
should when it is easier, and not harder, for us to go 


The Synagogue and the House 

forth and answer the call of life. The synagogue is 
not the place where a man forgets his work : it is the 
place where he learns what his work is, and how he 
best may do it. And, as for sorrow — well, if God lets us 
forget our sorrow for an hour, it is that we may better 
understand it when we meet it again, and better bear 
it for a lifetime, A charming book, a sweet singer 
will help you to outsoar life; but you finish the last 
chapter, the last quivering note dies away, and lo ! you 
are still on the wrong side of all life's deepest difficulty. 
There is a difference between getting up and getting 
on. There is no profit in being taken out of ourselves, 
unless we be taken out of ourselves for all and for ever 
by the strong uplift and unslackening clasp of the 
Christ who died to save us from all we ought not to 
be, and liveth to make us all we ought to be, and 
whose mercy and grace avail in all their fullness for 
every moment of our lives. 

That Sabbath morning in old Capernaum, Jesus 
made it quite clear why they had a synagogue, a 
thing that both they who ministered and they who 
worshipped had forgotten. Capernaum had a syna- 
gogue because it had that house where a fever-stricken 
woman lay weak and restless, and many another house 
where there were little children and sick folk, and the 
aged, and anxious mothers and toil-wearied bread- 
winners. Years of formalism and literalism, and the 
F2 83 

The Synagogue and the House 

gradual substitution of a political for a spiritual outlook, 
had loosened the bond between the synagogue and the 
house. It meant little to the perplexed and burdened 
folk of that busy town that at the turnings of the 
streets and from the open spaces they could catch a 
glimpse of the House of Help upon the hill. But, had 
they but known it, those sad-eyed folk, those sheep 
without a shepherd, there passed through their streets 
that day, from the house of prayer to the house of 
pain. One whose presence in the world meant that 
never again should religion and daily life stand un- 
related or drift apart. He came to make them one ; 
to weave all that is richest in the one into all that 
is neediest in the other; to make the synagogue a 
sacrament of help, and the cottage a place of peace, 
and both part of the great presence-chamber of God's 
eternal mercy. 

' When they were come out of the synagogue they 
came into the house.' These words stand for life's 
common and oft-repeated experience. Every day in 
some wise we have this passage from the synagogue 
to the house, from the hour of refreshment to the hour 
of toil, from the place where help is found to the 
place where help is needed. We have to go forth from 
our too brief opportunities for devotion, from the Book, 
from some gracious meditation or some pure and up- 
lifting companionship, from some hour that has at 


The Synagogue and the House 

least made a simple virtue grow great and noble 
before our inward eye and stand forth in all its king- 
liness ; and we have to strive after that same virtue 
amid relationships and tasks and aspects of life that 
conspire to reduce that glorious thing to the level of 
an unavailing commonplace. We have to turn from 
the poetry to the prose, from the glory to the drudg- 
ery, from the fair ideal to the gloomy actual, from the 
vision of the glamorous distance to the question of 
the next step. How we fail, what we lose, what we 
overlook, what we betray in this continuous conflict 
between the best and all that seems other and less than 
the best, probably makes a sad story. And nothing 
can redeem that story but a clear experience of the 
oneness of life in Jesus Christ. So searching was His 
gaze upon life, so profound His sympathy, so catholic 
His wisdom and love, that for Him life knew no 
transitions from the higher to the lower, no merely 
occasional sanctities, no mere secularities. Life was 
not for Him, as it is too often for us, a thing of shreds 
and patches, a medley of events, a string of experi- 
ences that sometimes brought Him the fragrance of 
the altar and sometimes the dust of the street. Life 
for Him was one high obedience, one immortal 
sacrifice, one solemn, joyous passion of love. 

And what life was to Him, He is able to make it to 
us. Just across the threshold of the sanctuary, just 


The Synagogue and the House 

outside this one hour of quiet, life is waiting for us all. 
In a few moments we shall be back in it. What does 
it mean for you ? It means that temptation written 
in your temperament, that truth so hard to speak, that 
silence so difficult to keep, a wayward child difficult 
to train, a fretful invalid hard to live with, a froward 
master, a disappointing servant, — in short for each of 
us a life-task all too easily misunderstood and mis- 
handled. As we bide here in this hour of worship we 
call all this ' the other side of life.' Jesus can make 
it as truly a part of life at its highest and noblest as 
in some raptured and exalted hour. The Christ of 
the synagogue is the Christ of the house. What He 
is to you here, He will be to you there. Life is one 
in Him — unbroken in meaning, beauty, and worth. 
Through the straggling narrow streets of life we may 
pass with His companionship in our hearts, as the four 
passed through the little town of Capernaum long 
ago. And ever for us, as for them, the promise and 
power of the synagogue shall work themselves out, 
prove themselves true over and over again in all the 
need and burden of the house. 



Mistaken Suppositions 

An Easter Sermon 

Supposing Him to be the gardener. — John xx. 15. 

They supposed that they had seen a spirit. — Luke xxiv. 37. 

WHEN Mary Magdalene stood in Joseph's gar- 
den on the morning of the Resurrection with 
embalming spices in her hands and with the tragedy 
of hopeless love playing itself out in her aching heart, 
she made a mistake. She mistook the Risen Saviour 
for the Arimathean's gardener. The mistake is easily 
explained. The light was still dim. There was just 
the first faint flush of the dawn, that magical decep- 
tive light, revealing an almost amorphous world. And 
had the light been better — well, there were tears in 
the woman's eyes. Yes, and the mistake admits of a 
somewhat deeper explanation than this. 

We see most easily what we are looking for. Ex- 
pectation is almost part of the power of vision. Mary 
wanted some one to tell her what had become of the 
body of Jesus. She wanted some information con- 
cerning the empty tomb. She did not exactly want 


Mistaken Suppositions 

an explanation. She had explained the situation 
already. ' They have taken away my Lord, and 
I know not where they have laid Him.' They had 
laid Him somewhere. She must not abandon her 
quest of the still, white form. The last tender offices 
must be fulfilled. And when a figure loomed in the 
uncertain light, she came to the simple and likely 
conclusion that it was Joseph's gardener. Surely 
here was the very man to tell her what she most 
wanted to know. ' Sir, if thou hast borne Him hence, 
tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take 
Him away.' Then the figure spoke her name, and in 
a moment she knew — first of all human souls to know 
it — that Christ was risen from the dead, and that the 
hope of the world was splendid, eternal truth. 

Now look at another scene. It was the evening 
of that same day. The darkness had fallen. The 
disciples were gathered in a house in some narrow 
street of old Jerusalem. The door was barred with 
the utmost care. The shutters were closed. Not a 
gleam of light to attract the notice of a passer-by. 
For the temper of the Jews was uncertain, and there 
were not wanting tokens that boded no good to the 
disciples of the Nazarene. Once already that evening 
a tremor had passed through that little company. 
They had heard a careful, stealthy, and yet urgent 
knocking at the door. It turned out to be two of their 


Mistaken Suppositions 

band who earlier in the day had set out to walk to 
Emmaus. They had a strange tale to tell of One 
who had joined them on their walk, though, now they 
came to think of it, they could not say whether He met 
them or overtook them. They told how His words 
had made their heart warm with glowing thoughts and 
burning hopes, of how He had consented to share their 
evening meal at the little inn at Emmaus, and then — 
oh the wonder of it ! — as the Stranger was blessing 
and breaking the bread a veil seemed to be taken 
from before their eyes, and for a few brief moments 
they saw He was their Master, They saw where the 
thorns had torn His brow and the nails had pierced 
His hands — and lo ! they two were alone, gazing upon 
the broken bread, and pondering the burning words. 
And whilst this story was being told a presence was 
suddenly manifest to all that listening company. One 
stood among them whom they had all known and 
whom they still loved. But in a flash they thought 
of that final tragedy on Calvary. Death was final, 
and He had died. They thought, too, of the door so 
certainly and securely locked, of the windows so 
firmly barred. And terror seized their spirits. They 
supposed that they saw a ghost — something unreal, 
unearthly, a thing of mystery and dread. Till the 
voice that had revealed the simple truth to the Mag- 
dalene in the dawn spoke to them : ' Why are ye 


Mistaken Suppositions 

troubled ? ' and their hearts caught the glorious truth 
that Christ was risen. 

Putting these two incidents side by side, I can see 
a picture of the twofold dijfficulty of that new life 
that Christ came to reveal. I can see, as in a parable, 
the two ways in which we fail to gather and use the 
great revelation that Jesus makes to us. We make 
the mistake that the Magdalene made. We love an 
easy, earthly explanation of life. We live too often 
under the dominion of this world's narrow probabili- 
ties. We are content, nay, even resolved, that our 
thought shall move within the cramped limits of our 
experience. We pass unmoved, unenlightened through 
some hour that might have been a great hour of the 
soul, because, for us, life is pre-judged. We are so 
foolishly sure as to what is most likely to happen. We 
are so blindly unready for the miracle, so stolidly 
unprepared for the wonder, the vision, the glory, the 
message, of the life that is life indeed. We trust 
only our senses, our instincts, our habits of thought, 
our powers of judgement, the dictates of earthly 
experience. How often we sum up a situation, we 
explain an event, when all the while the real facts of 
the case have lain outside the range of our observa- 
tion ! An explanation may be perfectly reasonable 
and quite wrong. What more reasonable than to 
suppose that that figure in the garden was the gar- 


Mistaken Suppositions 

dener ? Who else was likely to be there at that early 
hour? Who else was likely to have any right or 
business there ? The sanity, the likeliness of Mary's 
conclusion were beyond criticism. But she was 
wrong. She was tremendously and profoundly 
wrong. And her mistake teaches us that the truth 
as it is in Jesus may give the lie to all time-born 
probabilities. It may contradict earth's narrow, hour- 
long likelihood. The empty sepulchre is not an 
isolated marvel. It is not just a splendid, lonely 
mystery, challenging for evermore the mind that must 
still live on in a world wholly governed by laws that 
are traceable and wholly made up of situations that 
admit of being reasoned out. 

That empty sepulchre has filled the round world 
with mystery. It has enlarged beyond the range of 
our reason the possibilities of human life. It has run 
the line of wonder through all the hours. It has made 
faith and love and worship and spiritual obedience 
chief factors in each day's reckonings. 

Now we know that the simplest facts of life, its toils 
and its leisure, its wayside greetings, its laughter and 
its tears are beyond our earthly understanding. We 
can so easily misinterpret them, so habitually mis- 
handle them. They ask of us a faith that shall 
reveal the wondrous presence and sovereign will of 
Christ our Saviour. 


Mistaken Suppositions 

In the earthliness of our minds we suppose so many 
shallow and foolish things. We suppose it was an 
accident ; we suppose it was a failure ; we suppose it 
made no difference ; we suppose it was just a business 
transaction, a greeting, a disappointment; we suppose 
it was just the gift of a friend, sympathy of a neigh- 
bour, the music of a song, the word of a book ; we 
suppose it was just a thought the sunset brought us, 
a sickness from which we recovered — thanks to the 
doctor — the sweet prattle of a little child. Thus we 
move in the dim light of the garden and see only the 
gardener. Thus we ask our questions, follow our 
plans, do our work, and bear our sorrow, unconscious 
of that Divine Saviour whose presence and power 
and love fill all things. 

Let us look for a few moments at what happened 
on the evening of the first day of the week. 
The mistake that the disciples made in the even- 
ing was just the opposite of the mistake that 
the Magdalene had made in the dawn. She had 
stumbled over the Hkely and the familiar : they 
stumbled over the unlikely and the strange. She had 
found an explanation that was simple and reasonable 
and by no means disconcerting. They found an ex- 
planation that was irrational, disquieting, and remote 
from the facts and laws of life. To her, Christ was the 
gardener about to begin his day's work : to them He 


Mistaken Suppositions 

was an inexplicable and dreadful apparition, a ghostly 
presence from the place of silence and shadows, flinging 
about their souls the garment of nameless fear. Mary 
did not go far enough in her explanation of the figure 
in the garden. She stopped short at the bidding of 
her habit of thought. She accepted too easily the 
verdict of sense and judgement. The disciples in 
their explanation of the figure that appeared among 
them went too far. They passed beyosd the range 
of all that to them had ever been real and intelligible. 
They saw only a ghostly visitant, an abstraction, a 
terrifying mystery. Can we find in that stupefied and 
fear-stricken company a lesson we need to learn ? Is 
it not the reality of the unseen world, the real existence, 
the immediate and practical significance of the things 
of the spirit } We lock the door, we bar the windows 
of the house of life. We shelter ourselves amid the 
securities and fellowships of earth. But in spite of 
every bolt and bar He comes. Conscience beholds 
a vision of judgement. The sinful soul has vision of 
the hands its sins have pierced. The human heart 
in its weariness and longing beholds the outstretched 
arms of divine pity, and the pain-marred face of 
Eternal Love. But all the earthliness within us rises 
to cast doubt on the reality and worth of that vision. We 
bid this busy outward life belittle such experience. 
We sometimes treat the deepest thoughts that ever 


Mistaken Suppositions 

come to us as mere ghosts of the mind ; the most vital 
and momentous moods as mere tricks of feeling. We 
are afraid of silence, of loneliness, of meditation, of the 
profundities of worship ; of the hour of the hushed 
thought, the listening heart. We shrink from the 
tremendous, the sacred and eternal realities of the 
spirit. We spread the fan of a light shallow realism 
that we may waft away, as so many gruesome and 
meaningless ghosts, the thoughts and visions that 
come to us from the home of all reality. Our fear 
of the tremendous spiritual realities is not always 
manifest. It is often well concealed. But beneath 
many a specious argument, many a robust determina- 
tion, many a plunge into what men call practical 
things, there lurks, as the hidden motive, the fear of 
coming face to face with the true eternal world of the 

It was the same figure that Mary mistook for the 
gardener and that the disciples mistook for a dread 
apparition. It was the same living, loving Saviour of 
human souls. In Jesus the two worlds meet. In 
Him the earthly and the heavenly are reconciled. 
That new life that we are called to live through faith 
in Him can make the familiar things of life flash out 
with wondrous divine beauty and meaning, and can 
make the deep and awesome solemnities of the 
spiritual world brighten with gracious hopes and 


Mistaken Suppositions 

comforting promises. For him who gives heart and 
life into Christ's keeping each well-conned, drudgery- 
garbed duty rises to its height and worth in the 
kingdom of- righteousness, and through the dim 
mysterious thoughts of destiny and eternity that 
shadow the soul we can see the tender face and 
outstretched hands of perfect love. 

Just one other thought. To the Magdalene who 
had mistaken Him for the gardener Jesus said, 
' Touch Me not' To the disciples who had mistaken 
Him for a ghostly visitant, an unreality, Jesus said, 
' Handle Me and see — for a spirit hath not flesh and 
bones as ye behold Me having.' 

On the Magdalene Jesus laid a new law of reverence, 
on the disciples a new law of familiarity. And does 
not the Risen Christ this day lay those laws upon us ? 
Sometimes we handle life with too much familiarity. 
We hold our tasks, our opportunities, our privileges, 
and our hopes with an almost irreverent assurance. 
So soon for us the glory of life fades into the light of 
common day. So indifferently the privileges of life 
come to be handled. We can even tread the path of 
prayer without awe, and certainly we often face the 
work and fellowship of life as things of small account. 
And in so far as it is so with us the Risen Christ says 
to us, as to the over-eager Magdalene, 'Touch Me 


Mistaken Suppositions 

Mary thought that things were just as they had 
been before. She did not realize the tremendous 
spiritual meaning of the Resurrection. She did not 
realize that now Christ's bodily presence was but a 
sacrament of His abiding spiritual presence in all 
believing hearts. She would have been content to 
have kissed the Master's feet. But that was to be too 
easily satisfied. She had to apprehend Him and to 
love Him in a higher and a holier way. So would 
Jesus give us each to pass through life with a new 
diffidence, a new reverence, a new and holy vision of 
all familiar things. 

And sometimes we do not get near enough to life. 
We dare not come at close grips with the splendid 
hopes and the noble visions God in His mercy sends 
to our struggling souls. They are vague, remote, 
uncomforting. And when it is so with us, then comes 
that other word, spoken to the trembling, vision- 
haunted disciples, ' Handle Me and see.' Put each 
great thought, each dazzling hope, each wondrous 
vision to the test here in the maze and sorrow of the 
years, here in the press of human things. And that 
same fellowship with Christ that has made each 
passing duty a thing of immortal worth shall make 
the vast eternal truth of God a thing of immediate 



A New Year Sermon 

I must also see Rome. — Acts xix. 21. 
Fo7- to me to live is Christ. — Phil. i. 21. 

•T MUST also see Rome.' That was no passing 
J- desire on the part of St. Paul. Those five words 
sum up one of the great persistent hopes of the 
apostle's heart. In his letter to the Christian Church 
in Rome we find this phrase, ' Having these many 
years a longing to come unto you.' The presence 
and growth of such a desire as this is easily accounted 
for. St. Paul was a Roman citizen, at a time when 
the Roman empire was the greatest power in the 
earth and Rome was the capital of the world. Few 
things were of more practical service to St. Paul than 
his Roman citizenship. He travelled far and wide, 
often by those grand straight roads that the Romans 
had a genius for making ; and wherever in his travels 
he met a representative of the imperial city, the 
citizen Paul knew that he was likely to find that rough 
and yet in many respects satisfactory justice which 
was the secret of Rome's power and the salt of her 
G 97 

A New Year Sermon 

life. Rome ruled her world with a strong grip and a 
magnificent energy. And doubtless St. Paul, more 
than once, had reason to be glad that this was so. 

True, Rome failed this freeborn son of hers some- 
times. She chastised and imprisoned this her greatest 
citizen. In the end she put him to death. But the 
fact still remains that St. Paul's citizenship stood him 
in good stead as he went about preaching and teaching 
throughout that great empire. Providence sometimes 
came to him in the form of a Roman officer, and he 
may well have felt that he would like to see the 
capital from which this availing justice radiated 
so far. 

But there were other and weightier reasons why 
St. Paul's heart went out to Rome. His experience had 
taught him the wisdom of getting to the great centres 
of Roman life and rule. With his intense zeal for the 
spread of the gospel, with his keen eye for life's most 
true and spacious opportunities, with his splendid 
courage that faced simply and gladly the perils of 
the faith, the apostle felt that if only he could gain a 
foothold in the metropolis of the world, if only he 
could touch the heart of the empire, he would have 
handled the largest opportunity for service that ever 
man held. He had heard much, too, of the Christian 
community in Rome as he sat and toiled in the 
workshop of Aquila, and year by year the desire to 


A New Year Sermon 

preach there grew upon him. And year by year it 
was denied him. Ephesus in pro-consular Asia, 
Athens and Corinth across the Aegean, witnessed his 
abundant labours. He traversed the country from 
Syria to Macedonia. He could say in that Roman 
letter from which I have already quoted, ' So that from 
Jerusalem round about unto lUyricum I have fully 
preached the gospel of Christ.' But Rome was the 
dream of his life. And the years of splendid patience 
and heroic toil rolled on, and the man's hair turned 
grey, and maybe he thought that the call to the City 
of the Seven Hills would never come. But it did. 
And oh, the pathos of it ! He entered the city a 
prisoner in charge of a centurion. He dwelt there 
two years before he was tried and evidently acquitted 
of the charges against him. Then after two or three 
years of liberty, Rome seized him again. This time 
her temper had changed. St. Paul was held in a 
closer captivity, very likely denied a glimpse of the 
blue sky, till the heedless cruelty of Nero sent this 
brave soldier of Christ to the glorious shame of 
martyrdom. That was how St. Paul saw Rome. 
And here and now, on the threshold of the year, I 
want to help you to bring the desire of your life to 
the judgement of this noble story. 

Every life has its secret hope, its hidden desire. 
Our work lies, so to speak, in the provinces of life, but 
o a 99 

A New Year Sermon 

our heart often goes out to the capital. Life is not 
fully expressed for any of us in the routine of our 
service. It is not measured by the inch-tape of ex- 
perience. It is larger than these things. It has room 
for the unrealized. And if we should be very frank 
with ourselves and each other, we should confess that 
one of the inspirations and comforts of life for us, 
especially as we most feel the limitation and difficulty 
and irksomeness and prosaism of it, is the whisper to 
our own heart, ' I must also see Rome.' And the 
first thing I want you to let St. Paul teach you is this, 
that only the religion of Jesus Christ can make your 
dream of Rome worth dreaming. ' I must also see 
Rome ' : my friend, what do you mean by that ? Some 
people's Rome is not very far away, not very difficult 
to reach, and not worth the pilgrimage. Rome was the 
city of a thousand pleasures, where life could become 
a whirl of new sensations, and the hours were full of 
colour and sound and change. Rome was the world's 
great market-place : its streets, like the streets of all 
the world's great cities, were paved with gold — for 
the men who had never trodden them. Rome was 
the place where a man stood the best chance of honour 
and office, of promotion and reward. And it was the 
immensely wealthy and sometimes lavish patron of 
art and poetry and literature. To the man with a 
drab experience, or an empty purse, or a disappointed 


A New Year Sermon 

ambition, or a bundle of poems, the solution of life 
lay in the words, ' I must see Rome.' If the city 
of your dreams is a city of gaiety or of wealth or of 
purely personal selfish advancement, then the secret 
desire of your life is not worthy the heart that 
holds it. 

But you may say, ' Surely as long as I do my duty 
nothing else matters. My time, and my strength, 
and my resources may belong to others, but my 
dreams are my own.' That is a very common fiction 
of the mind, a conception of life that too often is 
made to justify empty, idle speculation, unfounded 
forecast of the future that breeds unfaithfulness in the 
present. It is true that your dreams are your own : 
and it is just because they are your own, woven of the 
very texture of your mind, vitalized by the inner 
spirit of your life, that they matter so much. A dream 
is a radical, creative, germinal thing. It does not 
float as a pleasing nimbus beyond the range and 
reckonings of our daily activities. It lies at the core 
of them. It is true that if you do your duty, nothing 
else matters ; but that is because everything in your 
life, your dream and desire, your affection and hope, 
your aim and your character all go to the doing of 
your duty. We make the mistake of trying to isolate 
some things in our lives. We cannot do this. Life 
is one. We cannot dream for ourselves and live for 


A New Year Sermon 

others. We cannot give the world some of our hopes 
and give God all our service. St. Paul's dream of Rome 
was bound to have some effect on all that he said and 
did. And the reason why it did not cloud his outlook 
or impair his service is found in those few words in 
his Philippian letter that give us a glimpse of the 
very innermost of his soul — ' For me to live is Christ.' 
It is true that our ideal has a great deal to do with 
our conduct, and just as true that our conduct reacts 
on our ideal ; but there is something in the Christian 
religion so deep that by comparison both these con- 
siderations seem to be but on the surface of things. 
Christianity's great offer to the world is not a splendid 
ideal, neither is it a perfect ethic ; it is a cleansed 
heart, an inspired will, a sure and certain hope, a new 
life. To understand how St. Paul entered Rome you 
must remember how Saul of Tarsus entered Damascus. 
' Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me ? ' The eternal 
love of Christ broke this man's heart, and all his 
selfishness was slain, and all his masterful wilfulness 
was transmuted into tender, willing obedience, There- 
after one face shone through his dreams, one voice 
spake in his duties ; it was the face and voice of 
the Saviour of the world. When once a man gives 
himself thus to Jesus Christ everything in his life, 
from his farthest dream to his nearest duty, rights 


A New Year Sermon 

See how it was with St. Paul. The thought of 
Rome never made him indifferent to the claims of 
Ephesus or Lystra or many another place where he 
stayed and toiled. His longing to see Rome was 
eclipsed by his longing to see the kingdom of God 
coming ; even as God willed it should come. He hid 
this hope in his heart, but he never tried to force the 
fulfilment of it in his life. He knew that the best 
place for a man is where God puts him. The vision 
of Rome sometimes makes men impatient and slovenly 
in their work. The hope for to-morrow obscures the 
beautiful and noble duty of to-day. Only Christ can 
teach us to sacrifice at the altar of patience. Only 
He can give us that which more than anything else 
we should desire for ourselves, that is, the willingness 
to do the will of God here and now. In the Christian 
life the highest desires keep us faithful to the lowliest 
duties, and in that faithfulness lies the work of all 
our days. As you look at St. Paul's life you can 
learn that a man fails not when his hope is unfulfilled, 
but when his work is undone. Look at the apostle, 
passing along the Appian Way and beneath the 
shadow of the splendid Porta Capena — at last in the 
city of his desire. He was an old man ; the tale of 
his years was nearly told, and the night when no man 
can work was already casting its long grey shadows 
on his path. But what of that ? His desire had long 


A New Year Sermon 

been refused him, but his work had been done. Ke 
had never relinquished his dreanx, but he had never 
neglected his duty. God had given him to live a life 
of incomparable value and superb success ere ever his 
eyes sighted the city that had so often captured his 
imagination and stimulated his desire. 

The best possibilities of our lives are perhaps bound 
up in our dreams, but they are set free in our deeds. 
They come to us in God's vv^ill for our daily life, and 
finding that is finding them. Obedience is success. 
If St. Paul had fought for his heart's desire we dare 
not think of how tragic and miserable the result 
would have been. And God honoured His servant's 
submission by giving him to live a life that in the 
matter of service has no parallel. We cannot aim too 
high ; but we must have the right standard of measure- 
ment. We must know that no man can find anything 
higher than the will of God for him here and now ; and 
doing that, and rising hour by hour to that, he shall 
come to know that one day in the place where God 
has put him is worth a lifetime in the city of his 

A word or two about the way St. Paul reached 
Rome. He came there a prisoner. And never 
were chains more suggestive than those he wore. 
They speak to us of the way the great opportunities 
of life come to men. To find the freedom of life's 


A New Year Sermon 

large and abundant fulfilment a man must become the 
prisoner of the Lord. The highest service has ever 
been given, not to those who have clutched at a crown, 
but to those who have been willing to wear fetters. 
Between each of us and the best we hope to be and 
do, there lies much submission and much renunciation. 
Never forget that. 

There are a great many disappointed and embittered 
people in the world — people who are looking 
back and wondering whether life has been worth 
while. So much failure and emptiness, so many 
thwarted endeavours, so many frustrated hours ; and 
the Rome of their heart's desire farther away than 
ever it was. Yes, and there are some rich men, 
famous men, successful men, who have entered the 
Rome of their youthful dreams to find that there is 
no joy in its honours, no wisdom in its books, no wealth 
in its markets, and no peace in its streets. And all 
of them, the disappointed who have never found the 
city, and the disenchanted who, passing beneath its 
gate have found it a city of mean streets, have made 
the same mistake — the mistake from which only 
Christ can save us. They have forgotten that the 
law of success is the law of sacrifice ; that though 
desire may often be far off, duty is ever near ; that the 
only life in the end unanswered is the life that is daily 
unfaithful ; and that the only way any man comes to 


A New Year Sermon 

his own is by living for others. Many a young man 
in the glamour of his morning time, many a general 
in the flush of his successful campaign, passed through 
the gates of Rome ; but the joy they found and the 
fame they won are forgotten. But still the world 
remembers one who after years of selfless toil passed 
beneath the Porta Capena with this thought in his 
heart and the fruit of it in his life, * for me to live is 

Yea, thro' life, death, thro' sorrow and thro' sinning 
He shall suffice me, for He hath sufficed ; 
Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning : 
Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ. 

Live to Him in this New Year and in all the years, 
and for you there shall be no conflict between your 
fairest dream and your most urgent and uninviting 


The Open Window 

Now his windows were open in his chamber towards Jerusalem. — 
Dan. vi. lo. 

IT is not easy to know where to begin the story 
of this man whose windows were open towards 
Jerusalem. Those open windows are so eloquent. 
They have such a tale to tell. It is a beautiful, brave, 
pathetic story, worthy its place in this Book that 
records the purest heroisms, and the most lustrous 
fidelities, and the holiest patiences of history. 

Those open windows were on the western frontage 
of one of the largest houses in Babylon. The man 
who occupied it stood next to the king in authority 
and influence. He was one of three presidents who 
shared between them the highest official dignity of 
the Assyrian empire, and already it was whispered 
in the city that the king had a mind to set him still 
higher, giving him honour and power beyond the 
other two. 

Now when you remember that the palmy days of 

The Open "Window 

the Babylonian rule were not yet passed away, and 
remember, too, what mighty architects and artists 
these Assyrians were, it is easy to believe that 
Babylon's Downing Street was a street of palaces, and 
that this man we are going to talk about was grandly 
housed. The suite of rooms he used was on the 
west front, and the room which we should call his 
living-room, and which as a child I always thought 
of as his bedroom, always had its lattices thrown 
open, 'Well,' you say, 'and what of that? He 
loved the sunshine and the fresh air, and the view 
across the Euphrates valley, like many another man 
in Babylon.' I think he did : but that does not tell 
the true story of these open windows. The man who 
looked out through them was a Jew, away from the 
land of his people and the temple of his God. There 
was all the pathos of exile in that far gaze. Babylon 
could never be to this man what Jerusalem must ever 
be. It had given to him those things that are much 
to many men and all to some — place, power, and 
learning, but it was not rich enough to give him a 
home. He loved the meanest street in the city of 
his people better than all the stately palaces of 
Babylon. He never lost the sense of strangeness in 
that heathen capital. It could not minister to the 
few elemental needs of his life. And when he felt 
most keenly the loneliness of his exile, he did not 


The Open Window 

seek the busy thoroughfares of the city, nor the glitter- 
ing distinctions of the court ; he went to his house 
and looked out of some western window, and said to 
himself, ' Somewhere beyond those hills there lies 
Jerusalem.' It was five hundred miles away as the 
crow flies, but it was nearer to him than Babylon 
lying at his feet ; for, after all, my friends, near and 
far, are not measured by miles. They are to be 
reckoned according to the linear measure of love. 
There is a mensuration of the heart. 

This thought brings us to the timelessness of the 
history. It is the heart's story, fresh as the morning 
light. Do not men call the world Babylon, and do 
they not speak of another city — the new Jerusalem, 
and say 

My treasure and my heart are there? 

If that is so, is there such a thing as the home- 
sickness of the soul .? I am afraid that the thoughts 
that the phrase suggests are not so wholesome and 
dignified as one would wish them to be. This home- 
sickness is a grand thing if you have really got it. 
The visions of the seers, and the patiences of the 
saints, and the lonely toils of the faithful, are bound 
up with it. But sometimes the world hears a man 
singing — 


The Open Window 

I'm but a stranger here : 
Heaven is my home. 

And it nudges its neighbour, and says, ' He seems 
to have settled down very comfortably for a stranger.' 
It is convinced that some of these 'strangers here' 
are in a fair way of becoming naturalized. And so 
they are. They are like those Jews who had such a 
flourishing time in Babylon that they lost all desire 
to see Jerusalem again. Their success in the market 
killed their patriotism. Mind that your success 
doesn't kill yours I 

There is a sure way to tell whether it is still alive 
in your heart. To every man to whom the heavenly 
city is more than a name and the immediate presence 
of God is more than a phrase, there come times when 
the busy world about him seems unsatisfying, and 
he knows himself one with them of old, ' who con- 
fessed that they were strangers on the earth.' Then 
he must needs get him to life's western window, and 
look out across the low-lying hills of time and circum- 
stance, and say to his own heart, ' Somewhere beyond 
those hills there is my soul's native land, my abiding 
city, my Father's face.' 

Those are not vain hours that a man spends at the 
open lattice of his heavenly hope. See what the 
open window did for Daniel. In the city of a thou- 
sand spurious divinities, it reminded him of a temple 


The Open Window 

erected for the worship of the One God. In the city 
full of fascinating lures and shameless enticements, it 
brought home to his heart every day the sweet, stern 
morality of the Hebrew ethical ideal. 

The breath from that open window kept his life 
clean. But for it he might have been drawn into 
the dark current of Babylonian sensuality and 
sinfulness. He might have become unwilling, un- 
worthy, unable to utter in the ears of Babylon the 
words of his God. But the open window taught him 
that Babylon was a terrible place. He saw a sinister 
shadow in its smiles, he heard the whisper of danger 
in its plaudits ; and three times a day he knelt with 
his face towards the holy city, and his heart going 
out unto his God : never too busy or tired for that. 

My friends, we who live in Babylon cannot afford 
to spend all our time in its streets amid the traffic 
and the merchandise, the gains and the greetings, the 
weariness and the sin. If life's western window is 
never opened ; if the breath from the hills of God plays 
in vain around its closed and dust-laden lattice; if 
morning, noon, and night the vision is the vision of 
Babylon and the voice is the voice of Babylon, then is 
the seal of the city set ever more broadly upon a man's 
forehead and its delusions and its passions make their 
home in his heart. We say that God is everywhere. 
But we cannot find Him everywhere if we do not find 


The Open Window 

Him somewhere. He is near us in the babel of buy- 
ing and seUing, in the toil for bread, in the rush of 
life. But they who find Him thus in the thick of the 
world are they who have first found Him waiting for 
them, as He waited for one of old, at the window 
that looks towards Jerusalem, to send them forth into 
the day's life with the temple reverence and the 
temple ideal impressed afresh upon their spirit. And 
when the day is over, and Babylon has done its worst, 
they find Him there again waiting to sweep the last 
jangling echoes of the city right out of their hearts 
— that as they lie down to rest their last thought 
shall be laden with the peace of that other city — 
Jerusalem beyond the hills. 

But to return to Daniel. He proved himself stronger 
than Babylon. That was because he could see 
beyond Babylon. The men who conquer the world 
are the men who see beyond the world. Babylon 
published an interdict, and it meant for Daniel no 
communion at his western lattice for thirty days : 
thirty prayerless days ! That was what the interdict 
said ; and after it had been signed and sealed by 
Darius, it was unalterable. The Medes and Persians 
prided themselves on never going back on anything 
they had decreed. Babylon had challenged Jerusalem. 
It had pitted its powers against the powers of the God 
of Daniel. ' And when Daniel knew that the writing 


The Open Window 

was signed, he went into his house (now his windows 
were open in his chamber toward Jerusalem) and he 
kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and gave 
thanks before his God as he did aforetime.' So much 
for the law of the Medes and Persians. No, not that. 
So much for the law of the open window, and the 
reverent heart, and the soul's faithfulness. Babylon 
had a law that altered not. So had Daniel. He was 
not a Babylonian. He lived under the law of another 
city, and he obeyed that law, and it cast him into a 
den of lions, and it brought him out again and made 
him a splendid witness for God. My friends, history 
tells us that, whenever the heavenly unalterable and 
the earthly unalterable have met, one has always had 
to alter, and it has not been the heavenly one. 

Those satraps said to Daniel, ' If we find you on your 
knees after this, we will be the death of you.' And 
they had it all down in black and white. They were 
backed up by something that was never known to give 
way. And they found him on his knees after that, 
and they were not the death of him ! That ought to 
put heart into us. Instead of Babylon, read Manches- 
ter or London ; there is no essential difference. Instead 
of the law of the Medes and Persians, read the law of 
the force of circumstances. And now, all you want is 
some one who will accept the exhortation of a familiar 
hymn, and 'dare to be a Daniel.' The world is 
H 113 

The Open Window 

saying to men in this city of ours, ' If you are abso- 
lutely honest, I'll starve you. If you will not obey the 
law of self-interest, I will wreck your prospects. If 
you are bent on succeeding as a saint, you shall 
fail in everything else ' (as if there were anything 
else ! ). 

But all this has a terrible side. It is a very serious 
matter. If a man for conscience' sake, for Christ's sake, 
defies the world, there seems to be nothing for it but 
the den of lions. That appears to be the issue ; but 
it is not. Whenever the world throws a man to the 
lions, he always falls into the hands of the living God. 
And whatever happens, he is safe there. 

Just see exactly what happened in the case of 
Daniel. The satraps laid their plans, and developed 
their conspiracy, and passed their anti-prayer law, and 
placarded the city with their impious instructions, and 
spied on D.iniel and found him going his own way — or, 
shall we say, praying his own prayers ? — and they tried 
him and proved the case to the hilt, and cast him into 
the den of lions, and then God muzzled the lions. 
Babylon was never more surprised in all its life. It 
was somewhat of an authority on lions. It had always 
believed that a lion, especially when judiciously starved, 
is a very fierce and dangerous animal. It had to learn 
that a lion is just what God lets him be. When at 
last Daniel was lowered into the lions' den in the 


The Open Window 

evening, just about feeding time, Babylon said, ' That's 
settled.' And so it was. God settled it. And as far 
as Daniel was concerned, these lions had no teeth 
and no claws. They could not raise a growl between 

And that is happening in every city. To more 
than one doggedly righteous man in this city the 
world has said, ' Turn aside, or I will fling you to a 
fierce lion, and his name is Poverty.' And it has 
flung him there — as any man may see ; but he knows 
that God has said to poverty, ' Thou shalt not bite.' 
The world has a whole den of lions, whose names are 
scorn, hate, shame, and loss. And God can say to 
them all — ' Ye shall not tear : ye shall be harmless.' 
And He says it. The world cannot breed a lion that 
God cannot tame. 

So I commend to you this story of a good man, 
as a parable of the godly life in an ungodly world. 
It has been the wonder of the world that many a 
simple man and many a frail woman has faced its 
most terrible threats with a strangely joyous peace- 
light in the eyes. My brother and my sister, you can 
face the world like that. It is the light of the western 
window. If you look out of that window you will 
not be afraid to look into the den of lions — no, nor 
even to spend a dark night there. Keep your heart 
open to God and the light of the divine ideal, and let 
H 8 IIS 

The Open Window 

neither the shadow of Babylon's favour nor of Baby- 
lon's fierceness come between you and the Holy City ; 
and God shall bring you out of this great Babylon 
unharmed, giving always a great peace, and whenever 
you need it a great deliverance. 


Hearing for Others 

Go thou near, and hear all thai the Lord our God shall say : and speak 
thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee ; and we 
will hear it, and do it. — Deut. v. 27. 

* t~^ O thou near, and hear for us.* That is an old 
^^^ and still abiding plea. It is born of an old and 
still abiding necessity. It has been the cry of the 
human heart in all ages in its endeavours to find God 
and worship Him and learn His will. As we look at 
Moses standing in the lurid shadow of the mountain 
that might not be touched, standing and listening in 
the place of thunder — whilst the people waited afar 
off not daring to draw nigh, we can see, if we will, 
not an incident of ancient history about which 
certain critical minds can grow brilliantly sceptical, 
but a great fact, too deeply grounded in human 
experience for any wise soul to doubt it. I mean 
the ever personal and persistent need for mediation. 
The real value of history lies not in the nicety with 
which it records incidents but in the plainness and 


Hearing for Others 

force with which it makes the deeds of men exhibit 
the principles that go to the making or unmaking of 
the world. Right through the world's religious 
history we see a long line of lofty souls who have 
been called to read great saving truths among 
shadows into which their brethren dare not pass, 
and to hear some clear plain word of guidance amid 
the reverberations of wrath and disaster. And if we 
should be shown, as we are shown, the picture of a 
people forgetting their own need of the very word 
they asked for, forgetting the faith and courage of 
their leader waiting for that word amid the shadows 
and the thunders, and celebrating the feast of the 
golden calf, sitting down to eat and drink and rising 
up to play, this also is twice-told history. Moses is 
not the only man who has come down from the 
mount of yearning prayer and unselfish vigil for the 
souls of men to find, instead of a hungry, humble 
silence, the revelry of them that feast. And the 
prophet has always known that the hour of penitence 
and silence and fear would come again upon the 
people, and they would listen to his message. 

But for full and final proof of the world's need of 
mediated truth and grace we do not look back along 
the line of its leaders and its teachers, its priests and 
prophets. We see One who through shadows darker 
than even Sinai knew, the shadows of the garden and 



Hearing for Others 

the Cross, drew near unto God, passed for our sakes 
into that fathomless mystery where justice and love 
are one, and heard for us, and has told us, for our 
deep and everlasting comfort, all that He heard. 
Jesus is God's final answer to the long pleading of the 
world, 'Go near, and hear what the Lord our God shall 
say : and speak unto us ; and we will hear it, and do it' 
But there is another and a different, but yet a very 
real, sense in which truth is still mediated. God 
speaks to men through men. We are in this world, 
all resonant with His voice, to hear not only for our- 
selves but also for other people. Now hearing for 
other people suggests a task which some find by no 
means unpleasant or difficult, indeed a task to which 
they address themselves with enthusiasm and delight. 
' Hearing for other people ' sometimes means dodging 
the truth with a fervent hope that it will hit some 
one else. It means becoming an expert in so receiv- 
ing the shafts of rebuke or warning coming straight 
for your own conscience that they glance harmlessly 
aside and bury themselves in your neighbour's 
conscience. It is the subtle art of misapplication. 
And it is essentially unprofitable. The gains thereof 
are a heart of pride and a starved soul. There is not 
one of us but can ill afford to miss one of those life- 
enriching pains God sends to teachable and listening 


Hearing for Others 

What boots it that a man has seen the shame his 
brother ought to feel, if to see it he himself has 
turned his back on the everlasting joy and fathomless 
wisdom of humility and refused the priceless treasure 
of a broken and a contrite heart ? 

But there is a way of hearing for other people that 
is wholly meet and right, and that plays a necessary 
part in the religious education of the race. Think 
for a moment of music. It is a mediated treasure. 
There are a few great names, and we call them the 
masters. I think we might call them the listeners. 
They heard for duller ears the choral harmony that 
is wherever God is. Did the great poets fashion their 
poems out of their own vibrant and sensitive souls ? 
If we could ask them I think they would say * No, we 
heard these things.' The musician and the poet have 
been men with ears to hear. The music of the 
Messiah was waiting for Handel, the message of 
the hills and vales of Cumberland was waiting for 
Wordsworth. And through them he may hear who 

Now it is just possible that some of you are saying, 
' This is a sermon for geniuses.' I should be the last 
to suggest that even if it were it would be out of 
place here. We preachers are often told that we 
never know whom we have got in our congregations. 
But as a matter of fact I have merely been casting 


Hearing for Others 

round for an outstanding and easily grasped illustra- 
tion of a law of revelation that is by no means confined 
to these very obvious examples of it. This work of 
hearing for others is part of the life-task of every 
man who lives to God. ' Go near, and hear all that 
the Lord our God shall say.' Whenever a man 
does that, he hears something for his brother as well 
as for himself. There is an inherent unselfishness 
in divinity. There is a diffusiveness in every divine 
message. In this matter of the word of the Lord 
spoken to the soul, no man liveth to himself. In 
the measure that any life attains unto sainthood it 
becomes part of God's revelation of Himself to the 
world. But you may say, * Where is the need of such 
a revelation. If every man can hear for himself, what 
need that he should hear through another?' Why, 
the need is here. Every man can, and indeed must, 
draw near to the place of hearing ; but every man does 
not hear the same thing when he gets there. The 
voice is the same, but the message is strained through 
a man's own ears. It is interpreted by each man's 
experience. There are words that can best be heard 
amid the murmur of busy life — words heard only of 
such as sit in the still places of pain. Sorrow hears 
for gladness, and gladness for sorrow. Wealth hears 
for poverty, and poverty for wealth. The old man 
hears for the young man, and the young man hears 


Hearing for Others 

for the old man. Every type of temperament and 
gift and need and experience finds its place in bring- 
ing God's meanings home to the heart of the world. 
His word is written in all godly lives. Mind you, I 
say, ' godly ' lives. Ungodliness never gets near 
enough to the truth to hear anything worth repeating. 
It is insignificant and meaningless and messageless. 
But to the pure and the reverent and the spiritually- 
minded, Heaven ever grants an audience. ' Go thou 
near, and hear what the Lord shall speak to us.' That 
is the privilege and obligation of sanctity. 

And it means a different thing in each man's life. 
The approach is in principle the same for us all, but 
each comes back with a different message. The 
wealth of the world lies in men's individuality. 
Religion takes hold of all the subtle points of differ- 
ence in our lives — differences of equipment, of stand- 
point, of experience — and uses them to make more 
clear to our brethren the great common truths 
whereby the soul lives. If all men saw alike, no man 
would see clearly. 

Most people consider originality a very desirable 
thing. Strange to say, however, people often think 
that the short cut to originality is found by copying 
some one else. The attempt to be original invariably 
defeats itself. Yet originality is a very precious 
thing. It is worth a great deal to the world. And 


Hearing for Others 

the one thing that truly develops and safeguards it 
in human life is the worshipping and the listening 
spirit. The most original man is the most devout 
man. The freshest thing any man can give to the 
world — the one thing the world can never have un- 
less he does give it — is the word of God spoken in 
his own soul — the transcript of his personal experi- 
ence of divinity. The hardest task a man can have 
in this world is to find himself. Indeed no man can 
make that all-important discovery unless God guides 
him to it. 

We are often reminded that we are creatures of 
habit. That is good. Habit is the framework of 
character. But it is sadly possible for a man to be 
the creature of other men's habits. We all pay an 
unconscious toll to the great conventions in the midst 
of which we live out our lives. It is so difficult to 
live out your own life. But in so far as our desire 
for originality is born of this imperative sense of the 
duty of living out our own life from the inmost and 
unto the uttermost, it is a desire worthy of being 
cherished ; and nowhere more so than in the great 
matter of religion. William Watson, in a searching 
criticism of a certain section of society, describes 
them as having ' minds to one dead likeness blent.' 
You will not misunderstand me if I find in that 
description a warning to the members of the noblest 


Hearing for Others 

society on earth — the Christian Church. I know 
there may be minds to one living likeness blent. It 
is much to us that we have so much in common. 
Faith shared is faith stablished. But we all owe 
something more to our brother than to hear with him. 
We must also hear for him. In this continuous 
communion of believing souls we ought to be richer — 
and we are — not only by the grace of sympathy, but 
by that thing in each of us that is first of all ours 
alone because we are each listening for ourselves to 
what God has to say to us. 

And the word that is given to a man thus is an 
authoritative word. The children of Israel said to 
Moses, Tell us what God shall say to you ; and we 
will hear it, and do it. How did they know it would 
be God's word he would bring back to them, since 
they would not be present at that awful communion } 
Whence this readiness of theirs to obey a word not 
yet spoken } My friends, they knew that in this 
matter deception was impossible. A man can fashion 
many deceits, but he cannot speak God's word until 
he has heard it. It does not take a spiritual expert 
to detect a sham divinity. There is an instinct in the 
human heart that can always tell how far a word has 
travelled. Men can always tell whether your life 
message is an echo of the temporalities — a word 
picked up in the valley of time — or whether it has 


Hearing for Others 

come through your hearts listening to the voice of the 
Eternal. There is so much book-writing and speech- 
making nowadays that one sometimes thinks a day 
may come when the few distinguished people will 
be those who have indulged themselves in neither 
direction. One wonders whether there is not too 
much talking. Perhaps the truth lies rather in this, 
that there is not enough listening. The world soon 
wearies of talk. There are healthy signs of revolt 
against mere theory-mongers and dealers in irrespon- 
sible hearsay. There is a growing appetite for living 
truth. There is one voice of which the world will 
never tire, and it is the voice of the Christian ex- 
perience. Still it says tacitly, if not explicitly, ' Speak 
unto us all that God shall speak unto thee ; and we 
will hear it, and do it,' The time will never come 
when simple, life-deep godliness cannot get a hearing. 
And just a word about the order. Hear, and then 
speak. Do not try to reverse it or you will become 
one of the great company of babblers. Many of you 
know that one of the dominant notes in modern life is 
not so much unbelief as uncertainty. For years past 
we have been gathering knowledge faster than we can 
arrange it. The spirit of readjustment is upon us. 
A great many good souls hardly know what they 
believe. Do not, I beseech you, be anxious to add 
your little bit of private speculation to the common 


Hearing for Others 

fund of doubt. That fund just now is in a very 
flourishing condition. Go near and hear what the 
Lord your God shall say, and you shall have a message 
to deliver by the living out of your own life : a message 
some one needs, to which some one will listen, and by 
which some one shall win the grace of a quiet heart. 



The Lord^s Song in a Strange Land 

How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? — Ps. cxxxvii. 4. 

WHEN you watch religion at work, you find a 
morality ; when you converse with religion in 
its thoughtful moods, you find a theology ; but when- 
ever you get to the heart of religion you find a song 
Now that is not another way of saying that if youi 
conduct is right and your creed is right, then you will 
be happy. Morality may be as cold as ice, and 
theology may be as dry as dust. But religion stands 
for something deep and vital : something of which 
our best deeds are but shadows and our largest creed 
is but a broken and stammering story. It comes up 
from the depths of a heart that God has reached and 
touched, that seeks to reach and touch Him again. 
The great hymns of the Church come nearer than 
anything else to uttering the last deep secret of the 
religious life. They do not contain the raptures of 
the Christian experience so much as the profundities 
of the Christian faith. And by that I do not mean that 


The Lord*s Song in a Strange Land 

they are theological. As a matter of fact they are ; 
but a hymn is not theology indulging in a poetic 
flight. Theology does not approve of such flights. 
It is not capable of them. It never wrote a hymn, and 
it never made any one want to sing a hymn — except 
by way of relief — the hymn being not the outcome of 
the situation, but rather something brought in to 
save it. Some people regard our Methodist Hymn- 
book with vast satisfaction because they find so much 
good theology in our hymns. But you have not said 
the best that can be said about a hymn when you 
have lauded its theology. For a hymn takes up the 
tale of truth at a point nearer its source than ever 
theology can come, and carries the tale on beyond the 
point at which theology lays it down. The song of 
the Church is born of all that is ineffable in its creed, 
instinctive in its convictions, vital in its morality, 
basal in its spiritual experience. If the Church is the 
Bride of Christ, the hymn-book is its love-story. 

And now look at that band of captives sitting 
listlessly by the waters of Babylon, folded in all the 
pathos of a thwarted destiny and a broken dream. 
' How shall we sing the song of Zion ? ' They 
might have recited the creed of Zion. They might 
have borne testimony to the faith of Zion. But to 
sing the Lord's song, to sing out the glory of their 
history and destiny, to set the great notes of the 


The Lord^s Song in a Strange Land 

Hebrew faith ringing in alien ears — was for a while too 
much for them. They broke down, and hung their 
harps on the willows. 

And surely here the story touches our lives. The 
bitter cry of these few Jewish patriots has ever been the 
cry of the worshipping heart, with its ideal, its aspira- 
tion, its yearning and its duty, as it has sojourned in 
the strange land, under the dynasty of world-powers, 
the autocracy of selfishness, the tyranny of temptation, 
and the imperialism of pain. There is no good man, 
no man who seeks unto God, who cannot enter in 
somewise into this story of the song unsung. The 
song of the heavenly city has always been hard to 
sing amid the shadows of the earthly exile. But the 
difficulty proves that the song is there. I think per- 
haps some people forget that, or doubt it. They think 
they have parted with their song in the hour when 
they cannot set it to music. But it is not the song 
they have laid aside, it is only the harp. We have 
seen that the song of the Church is not born of ecstasy 
but of profundity. It dwells amid the deep things 
that lie at the foundations of faith and that feed the 
roots of character. 

Look again at the Jews, with their harps on the wil- 
lows. That picture tells you just how much and how 
little Babylon can do. It can take the harp out of a 
man's hands, but it cannot pluck the song of the Lord 
I 129 

The Lord's Song in a Strange Land 

out of his heart. You can see in that group of griev- 
ing folic the outward and visible sign, not of Babylon's 
triumph, but of its defeat. It tells of a loyalty that 
that great city could not shake, a dream of home it 
could not banish, a song of the heart's deep things, 
that neither the music of its temples nor the roar of 
its streets could make men forget. My friends, it 
may be that our very depressions are precious to God. 
It may be that He can teach us to take heart of hope 
out of our very sense of the difficulty and pain of the 
soul's true life. It may be that the burdened silences 
of earnest hearts, like rests in music, have their rightful 
place in the song we sing to Him here. Side by side 
with this word about the harps on the willows and the 
voices choked with tears set this word — ' When the 
Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, then was 
our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with 
singing.' Israel had never sung like that before ; but 
where had they learned to sing like that ? Why, in 
the only place where a man can learn to sing the 
Lord's song as it should be sung — in the strange land. 
The Jews brought back from Babylon not only the 
memory of a bitter captivity but the art of a sweeter 
song. One of our latest poets has said, ' The half of 
music, I have heard men say, is to have grieved.' 
There is a more or less popular refrain that goes thus — 
' I feel like singing all the time.' Now if that refrain 



The Lord^s Song in a Strange Land 

sums up a man's experience, whatever he is (and I 
won't attempt to place him lest I should do him an 
injustice) he is not a singer and never was a singer 
and does not know what singing is. William Watson, 
in a lovely poem to the skylark, says — 

My heart is dashed with griefs and fears ; 

My song comes fluttering and is gone. 
O, high above the home of tears, 

Eternal joy, sing on I 

A bird's song may be learned above the home of 
tears, but not a saint's song. We have to learn to 
sing by not being able to sing. Sorrow is the saints' 
singing-master — the large unselfish sorrow of a heart 
loyal to God amid the harsh and alien tongues of 
the world's wickedness and all the strangeness of 
the land. 

Ah, but, you say, the question we started with was 
not, ' How can we learn the Lord's song in a strange 
land ? ' but ' How can we sing it there ? ' My friends, 
there is a sense in which the learning and the singing 
are one. The Lord's song is not first of all the song of 
the man who feels happy ; it is the song of the man 
who does right. We have seen how deep the song 
goes. It is our first duty to be true to the depths of 
it. Look at these Jewish exiles again. How did 
they find an answer to their own question? They 
I a 131 

The Lord^s Song in a Strange Land 

hung their harps on the willows, but their obedience 
was unto God. Every Jew who kept his hands clean 
and his heart hopeful in that unholy and masterful 
capital sang the Lord's song. If it did not fall on 
Babylon's ears it rang in Babylon's conscience. When 
Daniel made his choice between unfaithfulness and 
life or faithfulness and death ; and when three young 
princes stood upright and strong, in the flush of 
their youth, and the power of their faith, amid the 
crowd that bowed itself on the plain of Dura, refusing 
to betray their lives' most precious trust and to 
dishonour the God of their fathers, and their God — 
the Lord's song went up to heaven from the land 
of strangers. It is the song of moral victory, and of 
utter faithfulness to God's voice in the soul. That is 
not the only note in the song. But if that note be 
missing there is no song. 

And that is one of the notes that is threatened to- 
day — the great note of moral freedom. Vachell says 
in one of his books : ' A bird in the hand never 
sings.' The inner life of so many people to-day is 
like a bird in the hand, and the hand is the hand of 
fatalism. Side by side with that great movement, in 
the main towards liberty, that is associated with the 
word 'democracy,' there has gone on for the last 
fifty years another movement that has made men 
doubt the highest forms of the very liberty they have 


The Lord's Song in a Strange Land 

fought for. The gospel of environment has been 
preached. Science has upheld the monarchy of law, 
and materialistic philosophy has wrongly construed 
that monarchy in the terms of the tyranny of circum- 
stance. It has said that the land is the sole maker of 
them that dwell in it. It has taken the Master's 
question, ' Which of you by being anxious can add 
one cubit unto his stature?' and has deduced from it, 
not a faith in Almighty God, but a complete capitu- 
lation to Giant Circumstance. Now there is at the 
heart of religion a flaming denial of that suggestion. 
And I say that to fling down the gauntlet at the feet 
of the modern determinism that is doing so much just 
now to weaken for men the springs of action and to 
discount for them the value of moral effort, to prove 
through every hour of your own life that the captive 
of circumstance is the free man of the Lord — this 
is to set the note of the Lord's song floating through 
the streets of the city, and to put new life into some 
struggling and despairing souls. 

But there is another side to this question about the 
Lord's song and the singing of it that must not be 
overlooked. In what sense is the Lord's song the 
song of happiness ? There are a great many religious 
people in the world to-day who are not really happy. 
The causes of their want of happiness may be very 
diverse, but probably it is due in many cases to the 


The Lord's Song in a Strange Land 

false idea of the function of happiness. ' Be good 
and you will be happy,' is an exhortation that is not 
true for any man till he has forgotten it, and not always 
true even then. If a man looks on happiness as a 
sort of lawful interest that ought to be coming in to 
him from his investments of fidelity and sacrifice he 
is making a great mistake. The desire to be happy 
frustrates itself Happiness as a test of character, or 
even as a test of religious sincerity, is best ruled out 
of our reckonings. It is only calculated to cloud our 
inner life and enfeeble our moral endeavour. And 
we may get wrong in the great harmony of life by 
being too anxious about the melody. But if a man 
should succeed in doing this, the question of happiness 
faces him again when he looks into his brother's eyes. 
He may not seek it for its own sake, but he cannot help 
seeking it for the world's sake and his work's sake. 

Do we not feel that we owe it to the world to 
be happy ? When we are told that we ought to go 
about with bright faces and be beams of sunshine, 
do we not feel that there is something sound and 
vital in that demand ? When we read these lines of 
Robert Louis Stevenson — 

If I have faltered more or less 
In my great task of happiness, 
If I have moved among my race 
And shown no glorious morning face, 


The Lord's Song in a Strange Land 

do we not feel that part of our personal failure in the 
service of God is being probed ? True happiness is 
the most persuasive herald the gospel can send forth 
into the world. The creed that will win the day in 
the end will be the creed that can be sung. We must 
learn to set it to the music of joy. 

A strange sadness has come over modern religious 
life. Probably the spirit of sadness that has crept 
into our music, and also, though in a less degree, into 
our literature, has tinged our religious thought. But 
I think that much of it is due to the fact that in 
emphasizing the ethical issues of the Christian faith 
we have almost unconsciously linked our joys too 
closely with our duties, instead of looking straight up 
to God. The Lord's song has become a song of 
defiance hurled at the world, instead of a song of 
faith for the ear of Heaven. The true music of the 
Lord's song rings not in the hearts of the morally 
desperate, but in the hearts of the spiritually exultant. 
The true joy of the Christian is not that of a servant 
working for the love of his work ; it is the joy of a son 
working for love of his Father. It is not the joy of a 
fighter with his back to the wall ; it is the joy of a 
fighter with his face to the skies. Joy is not the child 
of obligation fulfilled ; it is the child of affection and 
aspiration satisfied. I quoted Watson's line just now — 
O, high above the home of tears. 

The Lord^s Song in a Strange Land 

After all, that is where the true joy of life dwells for 
us all. And to reach up to that we need something 
more than the sure hands of faithfulness — we need 
the strong wings of faith. The song that comes out 
of service is much ; but oh for the song of the Lord 
out of which service comes ! 

I believe that if a census were taken to discover the 
five most popular hymns to-day, among the five you 
would find, ' Lead, kindly light ; amid the encircling 
gloom.' I confess to a weakness for that hymn 
myself But if the early Methodist fathers had had 
that hymn, they would have never given it out. This 
is what they sang ! — 

My God, I am Thine ! 

What a comfort divine ! 
What a blessing to know that my Jesus is mine ! 

In the heavenly Lamb 

Thrice happy I am, 
And my heart it doth dance at the sound of His name. 

That was not the product of a- temperament, 
neither was it the effervescence of an evangelical 
revival. That has been the true joy-note through all 
the ages. I do not know whether we shall ever come 
back to that hymn of Charles Wesley's ; but we shall 
have to come back to the experience if ever hillside 
and city are to ring with the song of the Lord. 

I do not say the song is not sung now. It is ; but 

The Lord's Song in a Strange Land 

it has been transposed. It is sung in four flats 
instead of five sharps. And when you change the 
key of a song you change the nnessage of the song. 
Let us never forget that the authentic song of the 
Lord throbs with joy. And it is not when a man 
has tried to do his best down here, but when faith 
and hope have lifted him and all his travail and 
success and weariness and failure right up to God's 
eternal power and love, that he can sing that song. 

Then, to turn for a third time to the poet's lines to 
the singing bird, and venturing this time to alter 
them, a man can sing — 

My heart is dashed with griefs and fears, 
My song comes fluttering and is gone ; 
Yet here, within this home of tears, 
Eternal joy, sing on ! 



Twilight and Trembling 

The twilight that I desired hath been turned into trembling unto me. 
—ISA. xxi. 4(R.V.). 

YOU all know that the twilight is a great wizard. 
I do not know whether you have ever thought 
to analyse its subtle power. If you have, I think you 
will have found that the spell of the twilight lies quite 
as much in what it hides from us as in what it reveals. 
It casts a filmy veil of indistinctness over all things 
we see — softening their hardness, dealing gently with 
their defects, making such beauty as they possess 
more suggestive and idealistic. 

The twilight hour is the one merciful hour in the 
day — the hour when there is just enough light to see 
by, but when criticism has to be suspended. This 
hour, one feels, is in the beautiful fitness of things. 
There is a sense in which the whole span of our 
human life is but the twilight hour that ushers in the 
bright eternal day. God has set a merciful limit to 
our seeing. Part of that limitation is in our spiritual 


Twilight and Trembling 

constitution, part is in our circumstances. Just as 
there is an automatic contraction of the pupil of the 
eye so as to admit only just so much light as the 
exquisite mechanism of sight can effectively and safely 
deal with, so there is also a similar law of limitation 
that concerns the inward eye. We see as much as 
our minds can grapple with and our hearts can bear. 
One somehow feels that if only one could see now as 
one will see some day, life would appear at once more 
beautiful and more unsightly than ever one has yet 
conceived it to be. We have never seen life as 
gracious and noble and fair as it really is ; but, on the 
other hand, we have never seen it as sordid and twisted 
and deformed as it really is. If the twilight hour of 
our mortality fails to show us the splendour of life's 
best beauty, it is equally reticent about its worst 
deformity. If it seems to cheat us out of some of our 
enjoyment of the fair things, it spares us the pain of 
realizing the full measure of earthly defect. Amid 
the miseries of imperfect life there is the mercy of 
imperfect vision. And I think we should be very glad 
that this is so. No man might know all that sin 
means, and live. The vision would break his heart. 
The God-man who came from the eternal sunshine, 
and dwelt awhile in the earthly twilight, had that 
vision of sin ; and it made for Him the black anguish 
of Gethsemane. 


Twilight and Trembling 

So, I say, there is a twilight that God giveth, that 
God willeth — a merciful limitation of light. But this is 
not the twilight of which the prophet speaks. There 
is a twilight not of God's willing but of man's desiring, 
that brings the spirit of trembling into men's lives. 
It is this that I want you to consider just now. 'The 
twilight that I desired.' Here is the picture of a man 
who is afraid to look life in the face ; who does not 
want to see things as they are. He wants to limit his 
own vision — to see things less plainly. He is seized 
with a desire to shirk the responsibilities and pains 
of life's larger knowledge. He is desirous for the 
moment of laying aside his powers of insight and 
discrimination and delicate judgement and keen 
appreciation of life's ever changing situation. He is 
willing to forgo the power of introspection. 

I think we all of us have to face hours like this : 
hours when we wish that a merciful blindness might 
fall on our inward eye. Now, these are hours when 
we need to pray for a special anointing of courage and 
sincerity and faith. As I have just tried to show you, 
there is a limit of vision ; but it is God's matter, and 
not yours and mine, as to where that limit shall be 
set. We may not be able to see much, but we are 
bound to see all that we can. One of the most 
persistent temptations with which we have to deal is 
the temptation to shut our eyes to the things God 


Twilight and Trembling 

means us to see — to try to make twilight for ourselves. 
It is the instinct of self-preservation gone astray. 

We all have an instinctive shrinking from the sight 
of anything painful and dreadful. I remember some 
years ago being the unfortunate spectator — shall I 
say? — of a serious accident. The thing happened 
before my eyes. My first desire was to shut them. 
It was the instinctive desire to avoid the sight of 
suffering. But as I was the only person who for the 
moment was in a position to render assistance, I 
knew there was something else to do than that, unless 
I wanted to burden the rest of my days with the 
memory of a mean moment. Please understand there 
was no personal risk involved in the matter — it was 
simply a brief struggle with a natural desire to spare 
my senses. 

Now, that is a struggle that in a higher sense we 
have to wage every day of our lives. The awful 
drama of pain and misery is being played out before 
our very eyes. We live in a suffering world. The 
outlook at times is unutterably pathetic, tragic, and 
saddening ; and I am afraid that so long as these 
things do not cut their way into our own lives we try 
to ignore them, to live as if they were not. 

I dare say we think we can justify such procedure. 
There is something to be said about the spirit of 
cheerfulness, and looking on the bright side. But 


Twilight and Trembling 

there is this other side, without a spark of brightness ; 
and part of God's revelation is waiting you there, and 
part of your work is waiting there too. If you shut 
your eyes to as much of men's sadness and necessity 
as you can ; if you consistently try to forget that 
every day our brethren are grappling with all sorts of 
hard things — grief and poverty and disease ; if you 
refuse to let the holy mystery of other men's pains 
come into your heart, you may find a shallow comfort 
to-day, but in the harvest of your years you will have 
to bind the sheaves of a trembling shame. I say it is 
not for nothing that we live in a world where every 
day some hear the call that may not be gainsaid — 
the call to suffering. God forgive us if in the days 
when that call has not come to us we have striven to 
put out of our mind all remembrance of them who 
have gone forth unto the fields of pain to bear a 
stricken body or a bruised heart, or to lose for a 
space all memory of the sunshine as they stoop to 
dig a grave. 

The secret of quiet confidence in a world that 
furnishes us with the sight of so many sad things does 
not lie in shutting our eyes. That is the expedient 
of the cowardly and the faithless. It lies in looking 
at things as they are, and letting the sad vision force 
us back upon the mercy and power of God. If only 
we have the courage and faith to look into these 


Twilight and Trembling 

things that pain the heart and try the spirit and lay 
rough hands on Ufa's sensitiveness, we shall learn 
more of the patience and tenderness of God than ever 
gladness alone could have taught us ; and we shall 
find awaiting us among these things a ministry of 
help in the offering of which God shall perfect our 
hearts in the knowledge of Himself and the love of 
the brethren. 

But again, it is sometimes our own life that we 
would carry into the twilight. We cannot bear the 
reproach of our own hearts, we cannot gaze steadfastly 
at the unsightliness of our own character. We would 
that the twilight shadow might fall softly upon our 
self-consciousness, that we might not see ourselves as 
we are. My friends, if you would know anything of 
life's lasting quietness, then do not try to carry your 
heart's sinfulness out of the light of God's face. 
There are no hours that have richer moral value, no 
hours that if rightly used will produce a richer harvest 
of strength and confidence, than those hours of insight 
into the faultiness and manifold imperfection of our 
own life, when, as it were, God gives us stereoscopic 
vision of our own sinfulness. I know they are bitter, 
shameful hours. One's self-respect is reduced to the 
vanishing-point. At such times we grow sick of our- 
selves, and may be very despondent about ever building 
a strong character and fulfilling a pure service. But, 


Twilight and Trembling 

I say again, they are among the most precious hours 
of life — if we find the right solution of them. 

There are two solutions. The one which in all 
probability first suggests itself to us is this escape 
into the shadows. The desire for twilight comes 
upon us. We want to get somewhere where moral 
judgements are softened down, and where selfishness 
looks less ugly, and where a man may wrap a tissue 
of excuses round a wrong thing. Yielding to this 
desire, a man passes out of the searchlight of truth 
into the shadow of self-deception. Immediately he 
begins to think better of himself. Some of his self- 
respect seems to be restored. But that is not the end 
of the story. 

* The twilight that I desired hath been turned into 
trembling unto me.' The man who shuns the light 
forfeits his own final peace of heart. He who refuses 
to face his worst forfeits the possibility of finding his 
best. He does not solve the question of his sin- 
fulness ; he shelves it. It is there, gathering darker 
meaning and more bitter consequence. Every day 
twilight and trembling go together. You cannot 
build the house of peace on the foundation of self- 
deceit. Darkness hides wrong, but it does not alter 
it. There is no salvation among the shadows of 
moral delusion. There is no quietness in uncer- 
tainty. There are some who deliberately refuse to 


Twilight and Trembling 

look at their own spiritual position — their relation to 
God the Saviour and the kingdom of peace and the 
promise of life — lest they should find it unsatisfactory. 
They live their lives in the vague hope that things 
will be well with them by-and-by. They do not 
desire anything more illuminating than the twilight 
of a hopeful speculation. That is, at the best, 
but an indefinite postponement of the day of 

Perhaps your life has carried you into the 
twilight. You are not really happy. You have 
tried the wrong solution of the problem of your 
own sinfulness. Won't you try the alternative? 
You know what it is : ' Search me, O God, and 
know my heart, try me and know my thoughts ; 
and see if there be any wicked way in me, and 
lead me in the way everlasting.' In all things 
that touch the soul it is better to see than not 
to see. Better to tremble to-day than to-morrow, for 
to-day there is mercy for them that tremble. If a 
man will consent to face his own heart here and now, 
with all its depths of foolishness and shadows of 
passion and sin, he shall have nothing worse to face. 
The light that shows him the greatness of his sin 
shall show him also the greatness of his salvation. 
' If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and 
the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins. He is 
K 145 

Twilight and Trembling 

faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse 
us from all unrighteousness.' 

So, I say, God help us to face the light that reveals 
to us the sorrows of humanity and the sins of our 
own souls ; for only so can we ever come to learn 
that there is a greater word than sorrow, and that 
word is love. There is comfort for a world of 
sorrow, and mercy for a world of sin, in the heart 
of God. 



And David longed, and said. Oh that oni would give me to drink oj 
the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate ! And the three 
mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and dreiv water 
out of the well of Bethlehem, and brought it to David. — 2 Sam. xxiii. 

MORE than one beautiful thing rises before the 
inward eye as this story is told. There is 
the picture of a man amid the dust and peril of life 
looking back to a happy childhood. And whether 
a man looks back with joy or with tears — and for 
most of us there is something of both in the vision 
— there is something fit and beautiful in the attitude. 
That is not sentimentalism. We are too visionary 
to hand over the fairest moments and moods 
of life to that mixture of irresponsible feeling and 
unprofitable emotion that sentimentalism connotes. 
We do not see how inadequate such an explanation 
is. Sentimentalism talks about 'dear dead days 
beyond recall.' But the days do not die. They 
come back to us. And the dearer they were as we 
K 2 147 


lived through them the more fresh and vivid is their 
companying with us again. 

There is, too, in this story the picture of a man 
beholding with a swift flash of insight the sacramental 
meaning of a simple deed. The water of the 
Bethlehem well was brought to David. Neverthe- 
less he would not drink it. For him the water had 
become wine — the red wine of the sacrament of self- 
less love. And whenever for you and for me the 
veil is lifted from life's common things, and we see 
the passion and patience and divinity and eternity 
hidden in daily service, whenever the water in the 
cup of life runs red in our eyes, we live through a 
beautiful hour ; and some day God will look for the 
impress of that hour on our inner life and the fruit of 
it in our outer fellowship. 

And then there is, too, in this story a picture of 
heroism. We see three stalwarts of David's army 
making their way through the enemy's lines in the 
blazing sun, taking their lives in their hands — or 
shall we not say more truly, not thinking about their 
lives at all — that their leader might have the desire 
of his heart. And that is the picture — the beautiful 
thing that 1 have chosen out of the other fair things — 
that we may just now look at it and think about it. 

It is abundantly clear that no one sent the three 
on their splendid errand. It is highly probable that 



had David known of their project he would have 
forbidden it. Some one had heard a few words of 
the king's soHloquy. His wish was whispered 
through the camp. And these men went forth un- 
known to him to meet it. Nor was the journey of 
the three through the enemy's h'nes mere bravado, or 
for fame's sake. They of all men had least tempta- 
tion in these directions. It were vain to boast a 
courage that all men knew, and unnecessary to seek 
a fame already won. Each man had found his place 
long since. They had been the heroes of many a 

Let us look for the lesson of their deed. Let us 
look for the gospel of heroism, the inner history of 
brave hearts. Heroism is one of life's timeless things. 
It belongs to no age or place. It needs no interpreta- 
tion. It tells its own story and wins its meed 
of acknowledgement. Do not misunderstand that. 
Heroism is a quiet thing. The hero is not often an 
orator ; and even if he should be, his own heroism 
would never seem to him to be a fit subject for an 
oration. He exercises no self-repression in the 
matter. He says nothing, because he does not know 
of anything to say. The service of courage is a very 
simple, obvious, undistinguished thing in the eyes of 
those that render it. The hero is always a man of 
few words, and the less he tells us the more we know ; 



the less he says the better we understand him. It is 
through the portal of silence that he comes to his 
own. If ever a man finds himself wishing that he 
could do some deed, make some sacrifice which would 
give him a name for courage, let him not think that 
he has (to use a current phrase and misleading at 
that) caught the heroic spirit, and that he is qualify- 
ing for a place in the roll of honour. Heroism lies 
not that way at all. Of all military honours, that 
which probably has been least consciously contended 
for is the Victoria Cross. It is self-forgetful love, 
and not self-regarding ambition, that wins that 

The hero does not think about the reward though 
he wins it. He does not think about the deed, he 
does it. He does not hold his life cheap. He does 
not think of his life. It does not enter into his 
reckonings. There are no reckonings for it to enter 
into. Calculation is never a strong point with the 
hero. The truest heroisms can be shown to have 
been part of the day's work for those who did them. 
Yes, and part of their essential character too. The 
deed does not make the hero : it manifests him. 
Danger does not bestow the heroic spirit : it demands 
it. The demand often comes suddenly, but the power 
to meet it comes of all a man's yesterdays. It is 
a growth. Heroism is always spontaneous; but the 



spontaneous things in life have the longest history. 
The words that leap to the lip of their own accord, 
the deeds done without a moment's premeditation, 
are the outcome of the real self a man has been 
fashioning all his life. The thing that responds to 
the spur of the moment is the habit of years. There 
is nothing so historical in a man's life as his 
impromptus. The crises of life are decided in appar- 
ently uncritical hours. Through all life's least 
eventful passages of experience we are deciding how 
we shall bear ourselves in life's supreme moments. 
The truest courage is so closely woven into the fabric 
of a man's thought and feeling — is such an integral 
part of his spiritual self — that it may be called an 

And now we can, I think, safely come back to the 
picture of David's three warrior friends. Now we are 
prepared to find in their heroism a message for our 
lives. For we have looked and seen something of the 
heroic spirit. We have looked beneath the surface, 
and we have at least prepared ourselves to believe that 
the voice that spake to three soldiers one summer 
day and sent them cheerful and determined across 
the death-haunted valley of Rephaim, is speaking 
also in our lives. We have looked at simple heroism 
stripped of any accidental trappings — taken out of 
those martial or romantic settings which have led so 



many to misunderstand it. We have seen that 
heroism is an inward and spiritual thing born of an 
unselfish attitude and a heart full of love. And now, 
I say, it is not such a far cry from the valley of 
Rephaim to the office in the city, the warehouse, the 
counter and the street. Let us look each at his own 
life, unromantic, prosaic, monotonous; and see whether, 
after all, the prosaism and monotony are not rather in 
the fashion of our spirit than in the shape of our 
circumstance. It is the heroic heart that makes the 
heroic situation. And there is room in your life and 
mine for that loyal uncalculating love that sent three 
men in the full tide of their life and with the glory of 
the harvest all about them on an errand that looked 
so very like costing them their lives. 

There is a sense in which we cannot have too high 
a conception of heroism. When in our mind we 
paint the picture of the ideal hero, we cannot make 
the light in his eyes too beautiful and the poise of his 
head too kingly. It is altogether good that we 
should so think of heroism as to prevent our 
offering the hero's crown to the essentially unheroic 
life. But we must lift our conception of life and 
the true terms of it and the spiritual setting of it 
and the constant issues of it till we come to see that 
the one man who can ever hope to do justice to life is 
the hero. Surely the heroic spirit is not like the red 



bloom of the aloe that bursts upon the view once in a 
century ! The inward conditions of its existence are 
constant and abiding. The hero's work was not finished 
when the last stake was set up in the market-place 
and the flame of the last martyr-fire flickered out. 
There is need of him while one poor soul in the city 
trembles under the shadow of tyranny, or writhes in 
the grip of unscrupulous power. The most real and 
awful tyranny in the world is the tyranny of sin. The 
hero knows that. That knowledge goes to the 
development of the hero. Where sin is an abstraction 
heroism is a dream. The gleam in the hero's eyes 
never came from the shimmer of a false optimism or 
the glamour of a weak and soothesome view of the 
evil that is in the world. 

We have many ways of picturing the religious life. 
We have the picture of the pilgrim leaning on his 
staff and shading his eyes to catch a glimpse of the 
city of light. We have the picture of the steward 
ordering all things fitly against his master's coming. 
We have the soldier standing bravely by his comrades 
and his king. But there is one picture perfectly 
familiar to the mediaeval mind that we can ill afford 
to lose, and that is the picture of the saint and the 
dragon. If there is one thing above another that the 
modern saint needs it is a personal interview with a 



Go back to your boyhood's days and recall the 
time when to you the dragon was quite as admirable 
a figure in his way as was the saint, though your 
sympathies were always with the saint. Supposing 
that some day the story had been remodelled thus : 
And lo, the saint looked about him and saw the 
clouds of smoke in the air, and said, ' There is a dragon 
somewhere in the neighbourhood, we must try to 
purify the atmosphere that the dragon is contaminat- 
ing.' What would you have said ? You wouldn't 
have stood it for a moment. Saints didn't exist in those 
days to deal with atmospheres, but with dragons. 
The saint had to go down into the black jaws of the 
cavern, lighted only with the lurid flames of the 
dragon's mouth, and engage the beast in mortal com- 
bat ; and the saint had to win. Otherwise what 
profit in being a saint, or what claim to the name ? 
And that, I say, is the picture we want. It is all 
very well to talk about cleansing atmospheres and 
lifting the tone of things, but the only thing worth 
doing, the only practicable service, is going for the 
dragon. And that means we must have heroes. We 
must have the heroic spirit and the heroic conception 
of the fight. We must see the dragons blasting the fair 
and pleasant places of our land — the drink-dragon, the 
gambling-dragon, the lust-dragon, the greed-dragon. 
We must gird on the whole armour of God and track 



each beast to its inmost lair, and slay it, or die fighting 
it. But a fight like that is not to be lightly enterprised ; 
and fitness for such a fight is not to be won in a day. 
And where shall you and I find the necessary training 
for deeds of such high spiritual emprise? We shall 
find it just where we are. God has so ordered things 
that the daily round is the school for heroes. The 
essence of heroism is self-sacrifice. A man's potential 
heroism is to be gauged by his actual unselfishness. 
Some one has said — 

'Tis as hard at duty's call 

To lay one's life down day by day 

As to lay it down once for all. 

Those words at least suggest to us that here, on the 
levels of familiar experience and apparently limited 
demand, as there on the heights of opportunity or in 
the depths of pain, heroism is one and the same 

And now, after all, we should leave the highest 
truth about heroism unuttered if we forgot to say that 
the central element of it is always personal. There is 
no exception to that. Men have done brave deeds 
for the sake of great causes ; but even if they them- 
selves knew it not, it was the response of their spirit 
to the spirit of those who had made the causes great. 
Here, in our story, it is plain to see that, though David 



knew nothing about the errand of his three soldiers, 
yet it was he who sent them out to do it. He had 
won their love and their loyalty. They went for their 
leader's sake. And when we turn to this great fight 
of life, this peril-haunted valley of the world, and see 
a man going forth unregardful of himself, uncareful of 
his life, to fulfil a ministry of refreshment and help, to 
offer some service of love, we know what to say of 
that man. We know he is a Christ's man ; and that the 
hand that feels for the sword-hilt is tingling with the 
touch of that wounded palm. Men have died for the 
cause, but it has been because it was Christ's cause. 
They have suffered for principles, but those principles 
have come to them pulsating with the warmth of the 
eternal Friend of man and majestic with the majesty 
of the Son of God. The heroism of a great conviction 
always proves itself to be, when we come to look into 
it, the heroism of a great communion. 


The Buried Wells 

And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in 
the days of Abraham his father : for the Philistines had stopped them 
tip, — Gen. xxvi. i8. 

TAKEN as a simple fragment of history, these 
words need no explanation and call for no 
comment. But as I stand and watch Isaac and his 
servants working away at those old and disused wells, 
clearing out of them all the earth and stones with 
which the wanton Philistines had choked them up, 
till at last they set free once more the cool sweet 
water that had quenched no man's thirst for many a 
year, I can find truth in a parable. Part of your work 
and mine in the world is to look for the buried springs 
of life's sweet and wholesome water. And as we are 
now going to be busied mainly with these springs, 
let us pause for a moment before we look down for 
them, and let us look right up into the heavens 
above us that we may remember whence their water 


The Buried Wells 

There is a deep sense in which every life might say, 
'All my springs are in Thee.' With that vision in 
our hearts we need not be afraid to speak of springs 
of good in men's lives. To say that you can hear the 
ripple of a spring is not to say you never heard the 
splash of falling rain. You can honour the water in 
the well without despising the original and continuous 
bounty of the skies. And so, with the great over- 
arching heaven in our minds all the time, we can 
begin our search for the earthly wells. 

And they need looking for. They are often lost 
beneath the drift of the years, or choked up by the 
rubbish that a Philistine world has cast into them. 
And it is easy to forget that they are there. We see 
the ground trampled and dust-strewn, and there is 
little or nothing to suggest that down beneath that 
unpromising surface there is a spring that might be 
helping to refresh a tired and thirsty world. 

What do we see as we look out on life day by day ? 
There is no need that I should try to draw the picture. 
It has been drawn often enough. Nay, I think it has 
been drawn too often. Little is gained by wandering 
up and down in the valley of Gerar after the Philistines 
have passed through it, unless your mind is filled with 
a vision of all the valley might have been but for the 
tramp of the enemies' feet. It is only the idealist who 
can really see things as they are. The world goes its 


The Buried Wells 

way before our eyes. We see the long procession of 
flippancies and vanities, the struggle for money, the 
false standards and mean rivalries of social life. We 
see this man lifted in his pride and that man sunk in 
his shame. And sometimes we think, as we look 
upon these things, that we are facing the facts of the 
case. But we are not. We must get down beneath the 
surface. We must not be too easily satisfied with facts. 
More folk have been led astray by facts than by fancies. 
Witness, for instance, some of the modern social pro- 
paganda, dealing with facts that no sane man would 
dispute, and yet not worth the paper on which it is 
printed or the breaths of those who advocate it. What 
you and I have to find is not merely facts, but ultimate 
facts, basal facts, divine facts. Beneath the materialism 
of the world's ideals we must find the divinity of the 
world's destiny. Beneath men's absorption in the 
arid temporalities we must find their quenchless thirst 
for the water of life. Beneath the barren and 
trampled surface of humanity we must find the wells 
of reverence and faith and love that God Himself has 
sunk in these hearts of ours. Man was made to 
worship and believe and aspire. God made him so. 
This Philistine world succeeds in burying deep the 
springs of the heart's true life. The wells are 

That is the sad fact on which we have to concentrate 

The Buried Wells 

our toil. But that involves another fact, bright and 
inspiring and thrilling — the wells are there. Isaac 
and his servants worked with a will, with a steady 
enthusiasm, amidst those piles of stones and heaps of 
earth. A bystander knowing nothing of the history 
of these desert spots might well have wondered at 
the sight of such hopeful toil amid such unpromising 
surroundings. But they who were doing the work 
were in possession of one fact that afforded them 
complete inspiration. They knew that there were 
springs of water if only they had the energy and 
patience to come at them. 

The essential spirituality of human life is an ulti- 
mate fact. When we toil for the souls of men, we 
are not working on the strength of a speculation. We 
are not prospecting. Like Isaac of old, we work where 
our Father Himself has worked before us. Down in 
the deeps of every human life He has set the sweet 
waters of spiritual possibility. He has made men for 
honour and not dishonour, for faith and not unbelief, for 
self-respect and not self-degradation, for hope and not 
despair, for the heavenly eternity and not the earthly 
hour ; and the proof of this is written not only in the 
heights of a divine revelation but in the depths of 
every soul of man. And here we may take our stand, 
none daring to make us afraid. There have been 
times when the theologians would have called us over- 


The Buried Wells 

bold. Theology has before now come very near 
denying the existence of these wells. But it is a 
comfort to find that no matter in what direction 
theology has gone astray, it has never been able to 
take religion with it. That explains how a man can 
be better than his creed. And so the world has many 
a time had the edifying spectacle of some earnest 
souls formally denying the existence of these buried 
springs of potential good, and practically digging for 
them every day of their lives. 

' He digged again the wells of . . . Abraham his 
father ; . . . and called them after the names by 
which his father had called them.' Is not that the story 
of Jesus of Nazareth ? Oh how Jesus sought and 
found the hidden springs of good in human life ! His 
enemies in their malice and shortsightedness called 
Him the ' friend of publicans and sinners.' The phrase 
has become passing sweet in our ears. It holds for 
us a priceless truth. But in the lips of those who first 
uttered it it was a shallow lie. As a reflection upon 
the moral affinities of Jesus it was a blasphemy. As 
a revelation of the eternal worth of sinful men and 
women, in the eyes of eternal love it is a holy truth. 
' Friend of publicans and sinners.' As His enemies 
meant it Jesus was never that. It was a moral 
impossibility that Jesus should be that. There is no 
sort of affinity between infinite purity and the foulness 
L i6i 

The Buried Wells 

of sin. There is utter and final antagonism. As St. 
Paul puts it : ' What communion hath light with 
darkness } And what concord hath Christ with 
Belial ? ' Jesus did not love the publican, extortionate 
and sordid, nor the woman of the city, for the shame- 
less life they led. He looked into the depths of their 
lives and found the man and woman whom God 
had made. He saw the possibilities of justice and 
sympathy, of self-respect and purity, and He loved 
that which He found. ' This man receiveth sinners,' 
they said. Yes, but it was not their sin that appealed 
to Him. He had nothing but hatred and wrath for 
that. But Jesus knew, and He is teaching us to know, 
that no man could be a sinner if he had not the mak- 
ing of a saint in him. Christ's unflinching truth and 
unmeasured love sank deep shafts of discovery and 
self-revelation into those buried lives. 'My Father 
worketh hitherto, and I work.' * I and My Father are 
one.' Yes, even as Isaac found in the devastated valley 
of Gerar the wells of his father Abraham, so did Jesus 
find in the barren hearts of men the wells of His 
Father God. They were choked with sins and the cares 
of the years, but He found them and sounded them, 
and let into them the light and air of the sky of the 
Father's mercy, and set the water of life, love and 
faith and hope, flowing into these poor world-choked 


The Buried Wells 

Jesus seeks men because they are worth seeking. 
He died for men because they were worth dying for. 
He saves men because they are worth saving. The 
Cross not only reveals to us the depth of God's love 
and the depth of man's sin, it reveals to us the depths 
of man's soul. And, my friends, we cannot serve 
men as God means we should serve them until we 
have learned to look on them as Jesus looked on 

The ultimate fact in the worldliest life is not its 
worldliness. It is the buried but living possibility of 
response to the love of God, response to the tender 
pleading and heavenly promise and sacrificial obedi- 
ence of the Saviour of the world. To have contempt 
of any human life is to misinterpret the Cross of 
Christ. That youth whose place of worship is the 
hippodrome, and who passed you in the street sing- 
ing the refrain of a song caught from the reigning 
goddess of the week, seems shallow enough. But 
there is some deeper music in him than that. It is as 
if one should play a vulgar ditty on a great organ. 
The air is mean, but the instrument is noble. It has 
great diapasons and a vox celeste. It was not made 
to sing silly songs. It was made for the Gloria in 
Excelsis. And it is so easy to forget that there is a 
place waiting for that gay youth in the great anthem 
of praise that began ' when the morning stars sang 

L Z 163 

The Buried Wells 

together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.' 
And if some time this week you meet that youth, as 
perhaps you will, do not cast round for something 
mundane enough to be pleasant to him. Do not be 
content to ask his opinion of Manchester City's 
chances of the cup — though that might be a useful in- 
troduction to something better worth talking about. 
Remember the place waiting for him among the sons 
of God. Remember the deeps. Whatever you may 
say about the gilded youth of this city, about the 
miser, or the poor painted woman of the pavement, or 
the dull, grey-lived dwellers in the slums — do not 
call them shallow. 

Perhaps you never have done so. Perhaps you 
wonder why I am telling you what you could just 
as easily be telling me. I will give you my reason. 
Some things have to get a long way into our minds 
before they get even a little way into our practices. 
It is possible to talk about people as if they were 
very deep, and to talk to them as if they were very 
shallow. How often does our daily converse with 
our fellows get beneath the surface .'* How often does 
it touch life's deep things? It is so easy to hold high 
and noble views of humanity, and to talk to men and 
women mainly about the weather and the crops. But 
there is another kind of weather and another harvest : 
the world is full of storm-beaten souls, full of men and 


The Buried Wells 

women whose real deep need is that some one should 
say some swelling word of sympathy and hope to 
them as they stand lonely and sad in the field of life 
so unready for the angel reapers. 

Ah but, say some, 'the deeps of life are sacred.' 
Yes, I know they are sacred. But men's talk about 
the sanctity of life's hidden things is sometimes a veil 
that scarcely hides their indifference to those things. 
I am afraid that too often we leave the deeps of life 
untouched, not because we remember they are sacred, 
but because we forget they are there. A tender, 
humble reverence for every human soul is part of the 
secret of soul-winning. But when a man's reverence 
for his brother's soul is a cheap substitute for any 
practical interest in his brother's salvation, that man's 
reverence is indifference and contempt. It is a sin to 
be repented of. It is the very zenith of cant. It is 
often alleged against a certain type of Evangelism 
that it seeks to lay violent hands on men's souls, and 
that therein it lacks reverence for the soul. May I 
venture, here in this Mecca of Evangelism,^ to say 
there is perhaps a grain of truth in the criticism. 
It is never wise to try to break into the house of life, 
even though you wish to give and not take. One is 
so easily mistaken for an intruder, and there is in 
most of us a rooted antipathy to intrusion. We 
* This sermon was preached at the Central Hall, Manchester. 


The Buried Wells 

must have respect unto a man's threshold ; but if 
that respect is to be worthy of anything it must be 
born of reverence for a man's inner room. The 
gospel must sometimes involve the infringement of a 
convention in the name of an eternal truth. 

I would rather answer the charge of having been 
over eager to come at the depths of men's lives on the 
errands of my Master Christ than the charge of having 
held back from those depths in the name of the 
conventions. Christian Evangelism stands for the 
inner room of life. It stands for the deeps of life. 
It stands for reverence for the human soul. Not an 
anaemic, aesthetic, sentimental reverence that babbles 
about the glory of humanity and has nothing to say 
to humanity in its shame ; but a reverence that is own 
brother to strong-winged hope and flaming love. 

And now let me say a word about the intensely 
personal aspect of all this. There are some words in 
the hymn of a sorrowful soul that will help us here if 
we use them in a way that certainly never occurred 
to the writer of them. ' Deep calleth unto deep.' 
Only the deep in one life can find the deep in another 
life. That is the law of influence. That is the limit 
of a man's power over his fellows. That is a spiritual 
principle that no man who would win souls must 
forget. Indeed, who of us can forget it } It is forced 
in upon us every day. I well remember how I 


The Buried Wells 

went forth to preach my first sermon. My main fear 
was that I should not be able to preach long enough. 
I soon made the perilous discovery how easy it is 
to talk. The problem became reversed, and my fear 
was that I should not be able to preach short enough. 
But my fear to-day is that I cannot preach deep 
enough ; and that is not a fear that can be slain with 
the pen, for the depth of one's words is just the depth 
of one's character. 

My friends, it is no good uttering the profundities. 
We must live them. There is a prayer that is one 
of the classics of the prayer-meeting, and we need ever 
to be praying it: 'O Lord, deepen Thy work of grace 
in our hearts.' The peril of the external, the formal, 
the habitual threatens us all. The dust and rabble 
of the world is ever tending to silt up the deep wells 
of reverence, and faith, and compassion, and enthusi- 
asm that God has sunk in our lives. It is only as the 
prayer for the deeper work of grace is answered that 
we shall be able to touch and stir the deeper things in 
other lives, and that our tired and thirsty brothers 
shall find the waters of sympathy and service spring- 
ing up sweet and available in the well of our heart. 



Faith and Haste 

He that believetk shall not make haste. — IsA. xxviii. i6. 

IT would be very easy to preach what some would 
call * a beautiful sermon ' from this text ; but a 
sermon, alas ! that would not work out in daily life 
as men have to live it. I am not sure that an idyll 
from the pulpit now and again would not do us 
all good ; but the weak point of that form of teaching 
is this, that the truth in its idyllic forms is often 
taken lightly or altogether missed by those whose lives 
are thronged and pressed by the material claims and 
needs of human life. So we will try to find the working 
meaning of our text. We will try to find some 
interpretation of it that will not become strangely 
dim and shadowy and ineffective on Monday morning. 
But if I meet you in this way, and try to keep in 
close touch with your lives in a tense and strenuous 
world, I may reasonably ask you to meet me as I 
endeavour to point out to you things which this same 


Faith and Haste 

world knows little about ; or, knowing them, chooses 
to ignore them. And the one thing in particular I 
will ask you to do is this. Be just to the unworld- 
liness of the text. Do not conclude, as many do, that 
because a thing is unworldly it is therefore unwork- 
able. And I think if we each keep to the terms of 
our agreement, we shall find some points of contact 
between faith in God and daily life which will be of 
real service to us all. 

* He that believeth shall not make haste.' That 
does not mean he that believeth shall never be 
hurried. This matter of haste is not a purely personal 
matter. We live in a hasting world — a world full of 
conditions that we did not make and must accept. 
In the heart of a swaying crowd it is nonsense for a 
man to say, ' I will not be swayed.' The crowd settles 
that matter for him. But he can say, ' 1 will keep 
calm and collected,' and can make good his word. 
And if there are fifty people or five hundred scattered 
through that crowd, each one of them a centre of quiet 
self-control, one can conceive it possible for the crowd 
eventually to be steadied and stilled. We cannot live 
as if this world were a quiet world. We cannot 
ignore the rush of life. A man in his office may be a 
saint, but the most beatific vision he shall ever enjoy 
will not silence the ting-ting of his telephone bell, or 
stop the rush of telegrams, or lessen that pile of 


Faith and Haste 

letters that he finds on his desk every morning of the 

But whilst it is true that haste is inevitably involved 
in vast and widespread conditions of life which have 
been slowly made and cannot be instantly altered, it 
is equally true that in the last analysis of them those 
conditions are inward and spiritual, and can only be 
altered as each man learns to adjust his own life to 
the highest and the holiest laws of it. 

A thousand men with a wrong view of life make it 
hard for any one of their number to get and follow the 
right view ; but we cannot escape from the fact that 
each man has his thousandth part of responsibility 
for the difficulty that in its entirety influences them 

Now the prophet makes the question of how men 
live life a matter of faith. That is going to the very 
core of things. We do not merely accept conditions 
of life — we help to make those conditions. And the 
prophet claims this much for faith, that it can teach 
a man an inward attitude of mind and heart towards all 
this busy world which shall save him from the curse 
— the spiritual blight — of these feverish times, and 
which, when all men have learned it as God means 
they should, shall banish from life all vain, cruel, 
and unprofitable pressure. 

How comes it that the world is so full of haste? 

Faith and Haste 

The final answer to that question is not in circum- 
stances, but in the men that have fashioned circum- 
stances ; not in the way the outward life impinges 
upon us, but in our soul's attitude towards it. This 
terrible, feverish, dust-laden urgency that marks 
the modern world seems to be made up of countless 
things acting and reacting upon the men who have 
caused them to come into existence; but, getting down 
to the root of it all, one can see that this haste must 
come either from an increasingly true or an increas- 
ingly false view of life. Either men are drawing nearer 
to life or they are getting farther away from it. I 
think we shall see that the latter suggestion contains 
the secret of this great and growing problem of haste. 
Isaiah linked this great word about living life quietly 
with a prophecy concerning the Christ who was to 
come. Christ has come, and the manner of His life 
among men, and the spirit of it, we know. He said 
He came that men might have life. It was life 
they were missing then. And, strange though it 
seems to say it in these pulsating and strenuous 
days, it is life they are missing now. 

Jesus understood life completely. He was more 
human than we are, because He was divine, and His 
divinity took hold of all that is essential in humanity. 
And that was the secret of the quietness of the life of 
Jesus. It was a life lived for the essential things. 


Faith and Haste 

It is missing these things that turns life into a rush 
and a whirl and a selfish struggle. The world is in a 
mighty hurry, not because its life is so full — though 
that is the way it always accounts for its haste — but 
because it is so empty ; not because it touches reality 
at so many points, but because it misses it at all points. 
The more we hurry the less we live. Life is not to be 
gauged merely quantitatively. There is a qualitative 
measurement. The length of life is found by measur- 
ing its depth. It goes inward to the core of the soul. 
It takes its meaning there and carries that meaning 
out into the eternity of God. The things that 
really make life are the things out of which 
haste for ever cheats a man. ' He that believeth ' 
in Christ the ' sure foundation ' — he, that is to say, 
who accepts Jesus's interpretation of life — shall not 
make haste, because his faith shall show him the 
futility and the needlessness of haste. It shall gird 
him with the patience and the peace of them that 
seek the essential things — wealth of soul, strength of 
character, purity of heart, communion with God — 
things that impatience cannot seize in a moment and 
that faith cannot miss if it seeks them. 

It is true that under favourable circumstances selfish- 
ness may seem to live without haste. A man may 
take life quietly because he does not take it seriously. 
He may be quiet because he is asleep. But that is 


Faith and Haste 

not the quietness of faith. Let not this selfish 
sluggard claim a place among the disciples of a quiet 
life. In the eyes of faith life in all its concerns grows 
evei greater, and the greater a thing life becomes in a 
man's eyes the more disposed does he become, and 
the more able, to live it out quietly. Haste is the 
product of a low and mistaken view of life. It is the 
outcome of a vast delusion concerning the things that 
matter and the things that last. Faith discovers the 
delusions, and lays hold upon the few great simple 
things that really count in life's long reckonings — the 
clean heart, the good conscience, justice, mercy, 
sympathy, and the service of love. 

And, further, the haste of the world is the result of 
the short view of life. The world is in such a des- 
perate hurry because it has no plan, no toil, no aspira- 
tion, which the nightfall will not blot out. Look at 
the pathetic parable of haste written right across the 
world — the hurried step, the strained face, the life- 
driven expression with which we are all too familiar. 
It means that the world is busy with work it will 
soon have to put down. If a man means to make 
money, he knows that he has but a few mortal years to 
make it. The desire of the world is of the days and 
the years. ' Now or never ' is stamped upon its activi- 
ties and its enterprises. I do not mean that the 
haste of the world comes because men have an over- 


Faith and Haste 

whelming sense of, or even any sense at all, of the 
brevity of life. The modern world does not think of 
such things. But neither does it think upon and 
realize the eternity of life ; and it is failing to do this 
that makes men the prey of haste. Faith in Jesus 
Christ teaches us that every man must have time to 
live. He that believeth shall not make haste. He has 
eternity for a practical factor. He learns by his faith 
to live in the eternal now. His faith reveals to him 
the simple moral content of the present. There is a 
sense in which faith alone can live for the present, 
because faith alone has the future. Unbelief has no 
to-morrow. Worldliness has no time to live. We often 
say, * I wish I had more time,' meaning, of course, that 
we wish we could dispose of the hours of the day more 
in accordance with our personal desires. But our real 
need in life is not more time but more eternity. In- 
stead of saying, ' Now or never,' Christ teaches us to 
say, ' Now and for ever.' He that believeth shall find 
the eternal meaning and the eternal issues of these 
fleeting hours. He shall know that he has time in which 
to do his best because the highest faith of his soul, 
the deepest desire of his heart, the most real signi- 
ficance of his daily toil, goes on for ever into the 
eternity of God. 

He that believeth can live for to-day a life unham- 
pered by the claims of to-morrow because he is living 


Faith and Haste 

for the for-ever. He shall not be afraid of missing any- 
thing really worth having. He shall not clutch with too 
eager hands at life as it seems to be rushing past him, for 
his faith shall teach him — the Christ shall teach him — 
that life is not something that rushes past us and must 
be grasped at or missed, but something that dwelleth in 
us, and the true name of it is the peace of God through 
Jesus Christ the Saviour and the Lover of souls. 

So, my friends, it comes to this when all is said : it 
is our unbelief, our irreligion, our foolish eagerness for 
the things that do not matter and do not endure, our 
foolish blindness to the quiet, everlasting things, 
whereof each one of us may fashion his life if he will, 
that make us the easy prey of an anxious, restless, and 
precipitant world. Wouldst thou be delivered from 
the haste that is about thee ? Then seek first of all and 
always to be delivered from the haste that is within thee. 

This busy world will surge about thee with the tread 
of restless feet and the throb of restless hearts. And 
little that thou shalt do will seem to make a pause in 
the rush of things. But thou mayest in Christ find 
rest unto thy soul. Thou shalt rest in thy work, know- 
ing that duty is eternal ; rest in thy service of the 
brotherhood, knowing that sacrifice is eternal ; rest in 
thy purest earthly communion, knowing that love is 
eternal. This is the hasteless life, and he that believeth 
in Christ, the same shall live it. 



The Brook that Dried Up 

And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Hide thyself by the 
brook Cherith. . . . And it came to pass after a while, that the brook 
dried up. . . . Get thee to Zarephath. — i Kings xvii. 2-3, 7,9. 

THERE is no stranger story in the lips of men 
than the story of God's providence. Sometimes 
very manifest in its workings, sometimes very obscure, 
always full of love, always working out the best, 
always right in the end. It is one thing to be in 
God's hands — as we all most surely are ; it is another 
thing to know this is so. The sense of dependence is 
easily lost. God does not stamp all His gifts with 
the broad seal of heaven. The one divine touch that 
testifies to the other-world origin of life's commonest 
bounty is sometimes like the hall-mark on precious 
metal-work — put where you won't see it unless you 
look for it. God Is ever helping us to help ourselves, 
and ever weaving His ministries of help through and 
around our human efforts, till we cannot say where 
the one begins and the other ends. And often we say, 
' I alone did it.' 


The Brook that Dried Up 

But this is not always so. Sometimes we get to 
the end of our resources and know we have got there. 
Like Eh'jah, we are face to face with a famine. And 
of many a man in that strait it stands written, ' And 
the word of the Lord came unto him,' 

Oh, those saving and comforting messages that are 
borne unto men across the bare and bh'ghted fields of 
life ! We have heard them, and have thanked God 
for the wilderness even more than for the valley clothed 
with corn. In the land where the bread and the water 
were failing fast, Elijah was led to Cherith and fed 
there. That is a very simple passage in the history 
of God's providence — a very simple illustration of the 
promise, ' My God shall supply all your need.' But 
the second chapter of the story makes much harder 
reading. ' It came to pass that the brook dried up.' 
God sent Elijah to the brook, and it dried up. It 
did not prove equal to the need of the prophet. 
It failed. God knew it would fail. He meant it 
to fail. 

It was a hard thing for Elijah to see the brook dwin- 
dling day after day until there was scarcely a cupful of 
water in the pools that had formed in the drying bed 
of the stream. He probably thought what men have 
ever thought in such a case as his, ' Has God forgotten 
me ? Has the evil day just been staved off for a time ? 
Is this sojourn of mine at Cherith more a fortunate 

M 177 

The Brook that Dried Up 

chance than a divine interposition ?' And then in his 
extremity the word of the Lord came again to Elijah, 
and he learned that the failure of the brook was part 
of the divine programme of assistance. 

' The brook dried up,' This is an aspect of the 
divine providence that sorely perplexes our minds 
and tries our faith. We can more easily recognize 
the love that gives than the love that takes away. 
'How providential!' When do we say that? It 
is when Cherith is singing and babbling in our ears. 
We say it when a life is spared, a wish is granted, 
an undertaking is completed, a need is met. With 
some people providence is another word for getting 
what they ask for, and being able to complete their 
own plans. With many people providence has no 
meaning, or even existence, apart from the glad and 
successful passages of human experience. They find 
a friend, a way out of their difficulty, a solution of their 
personal problem ; and lo ! there is no doubt that 
providence had a hand in this. But hunger and pain 
and death ; the hard way ; grey days ; black nights ; 
lost powers ; severed fellowships ; surrendered pur- 
poses and broken hopes, — what do we say of these 
things ? Hot and unwise words at times. The 
education of our faith is incomplete if we have not 
learned that there is a providence of loss, a ministry 
of failing and of fading things, a gift of emptiness. 


The Brook that Dried Up 

The material insecurities of life make for its spiritual 

A desperate situation may prove a great and 
notable blessing. Before a man can say to the deep 
satisfaction of his soul, ' God is true,' he may have to 
find a good many things false. It is easier to trust 
the gift than tho giver, easier to believe in Cherith 
than to believe in Jehovah. God knows that there 
are heavenly whispers that men cannot hear till the 
drought of trouble and weariness has silenced the 
babbling brooks of joy. And He is not satisfied 
until we have learned to depend, not on His gifts but 
upon Himself. 

So providence is a progressive thing. It is a develop- 
ment. There is nothing final in it. That dwindling 
stream by which Elijah sat and mused is a true 
picture of the life of each one of us. ' It came to pass 
that the brook dried up ' — that is a history of our 
yesterdays, and a prophecy for our morrows. I do 
not mean that these words tell the whole story of life, 
or even a very large part of it, for any one of us ; but 
in some way or other we all have to learn the difference 
between trusting in the gift and trusting in the Giver. 
The gift may be for a while, but the Giver is the 
Eternal Love. The abiding thing in life is that word 
of the Lord that comes afresh into our hearts day by 

If 3 179 

The Brook that Dried Up 

Let us trace that word right through this passage 
in the life of Elijah. * Hide thyself by the brook 
Cherith ' — ' the brook dried up ' — ' get thee to Zare- 
phath.' Perhaps Elijah thought he had come to the 
end of the book when he had really only come to the 
end of the first chapter. There was a pause, and 
then God turned the leaf for him, and Elijah learned 
that although he had come to the end of his resources 
God was but at the beginning of His. The providence 
of God leads us into some hard places, but it never 
leaves us there. Cherith is only a halting-place, it is 
not our destination. We need to-morrow to explain 
to-day. We must get to the end before we can 
interpret the beginning. The explanation of the 
hard words of life lies in the context. Too often, 
I think, we take them and study them by themselves. 
Let us have patience to read the sequel. Let us 
learn to wait for God's explanations. Cherith was a 
difficult problem to Elijah until he got to Zarephath, 
and then it was all as clear as daylight. God's hard 
words are never His last words. The woe and the 
waste and the tears of life belong to the interlude and 
not to the finale. If only Elijah, as he sat by the 
dwindling stream, could have seen the widow's 
cottage at Zarephath, with the meal and the oil that 
failed not, he would have had no test of faith, and no 
vision of God such as he did have. God did not 

1 80 

The Brook that Dried Up 

mean His servant to behold the resources of Zare- 
phath until he had been brought face to face with 
that availing mercy that knows no bounds of circum- 
stance, and that is ever brooding over a good man's 
pathway. Elijah looked into the eyes of famine, and 
then upward into the face of God. And then was 
he brought from the brook that failed to the meal 
that failed not. 

And surely that is a parable of God's way with 
us all. We can all say with thankful hearts, 'The 
Lord gave ' ; and maybe all of us have had to say, 
' and the Lord hath taken away ' : but if we are 
patient and faithful we shall find grace to finish 
with that victorious doxology, ' Blessed be the name 
of the Lord ; for He hath given unto me double 
for all my loss.' The ministry of all that passeth 
away is meant to beget in our hearts a growing 
confidence in all that endureth for ever. The lesson of 
all fading things is not the brevity of life, but the 
eternity of love. When the pleasant and comforting 
babble of some Cherith falls on silence, it is but that 
we may hear the low deep murmur of the river of 
God that is full of water. It is the note of uncertainty 
in the voices of time that sets our heart listening for the 
unfaltering message of the eternal. 

And thus this story in the life of Elijah may be made 
to cast a strong light on those experiences of our lives 


The Brook that Dried Up 

that are hardest to bear and most difficult to under- 
stand : the crises, the frustrations, the dilemmas, 
the seeming impotences and futilities. These things 
must be looked upon as links in a chain or as 
stages in a journey. The way to Zarephath lies by 
Cherith. This is the precious paradox of providence 
— that God builds the final success on the basis of 
the temporary failure. We would like to go straight 
to Zarephath. We can understand the Zarephath 
providence. We can duly appreciate a roof over our 
head and a certain steady balance between demand 
and supply. But there are things that cannot be 
taught us amid such securities as these. I speak in a 
parable. There are things that we cannot learn unless 
we sojourn nearer to the borderland of need : unless 
we some day watch a failing brook in a famished land. 
Had Elijah been led straight to Zarephath he would 
have missed something that helped to make him a 
wiser prophet and a better man. He lived by faith 
at Cherith. And whensoever in your life and mine 
some spring of earthly and outward resource has dried 
up, it has been that we might learn that our help and 
hope are in God who made heaven and earth. 

For most people life has had its precarious situa- 
tions, its baptisms of need, its hungry patiences, 
and its blank outlooks. The students of old-world 
geography seem to be at a loss where to locate 



The Brook that Dried Up 

Cherith ; but there is no doubt in the minds of 
many people as to where it is, for they have been 
there. And hfe would have been poorer for them if 
they had not been there. Poverty, sorrow, disappoint- 
ment, loneliness — these and a hundred other things 
may be the burden of the song that the brook sings 
as the silence of drought falls slowly and surely upon 
it ; but the inner message is the same for every man 
who sits by that brook — and it is this, ' Have faith in 

Zarephath with its securities and its comforts would 
perhaps have been a dangerous place for Elijah but 
for Cherith. Maybe God in His great wisdom can- 
not trust us at Zarephath as a permanent abode. 
We might forget Him. Be that as it may, let us go 
forward well assured of this, that there awaits us the 
Cherith of our faith's trial and the Zarephath of our 
heart's satisfaction ; and that wherever we may be, 
the most significant thing to us is neither the brook 
that fails nor the oil that fails not, but the word of 
the Lord that endureth for ever. 


* Now Naaman was a Leper^ but * 

Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great 
man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given 
deliverance unto Syria : he was also a mighty man of valour — but he 
was a leper. — 2 Kings v. i. 

AS a rule our interest in the story of Naamaii 
centres round the dramatic incident of his 
healing in the waters of Jordan. Looking at the 
story as a whole, and seeing it in its true perspective, 
it is inevitable that this should be the case. But 
I am going to ask you to look at the history 
of Naaman from another point of view. What can 
we gather from the story of Naaman's life before 
there came into it the whisper of hope through the 
lips of the little captive girl — his wife's lady's-maid ? 
Leprosy, the most terrible disease of the East, had 
developed in him. It had come in a form that did 
not involve exclusion from society. It was the white 
leprosy, which is one of the most slowly developing 
forms of the disease. In this particular form the 
leprosy is all under the skin, and the disease, which 



*Now Naaman was a Leper^ but * 

may run its course for more than twenty years, results 
in the end in an utter absence of feeling — unless it 
changes its form in the later stages and becomes 
virulent and loathsome. It is possible that Naaman 
had been suffering from this incurable disease for a 
number of years before the light of hope broke into 
his life. Assuming this to be so, let us read our text 
in another way. 

' Now Naaman was a leper — but he was captain of 
the host of the king of Syria, a great man with his 
master, and honourable, a deliverer of his country and 
a mighty man of valour.' 

There is a picture of a man living out his life fully 
and bravely in spite of a terrible handicap in the form 
of an incurable disease, which must year after year 
gain a stronger hold on his body and eventually end 
his life. I grant you that the picture is pagan in its 
setting. Naaman worshipped the gods of the Ara- 
maean Pantheon. But there are lessons in this man's 
attitude towards life that we may, v/ith no little profit, 
humble ourselves to learn. The situation that Naaman 
had to face is not the exceptional in life ; it is rather 
the universal. Getting, for a moment, past the details 
of his trouble into the principle of it, we find that in 
different ways and in different degrees all men are 
called to face that in life which Naaman faced — an 
invincible, unavoidable, immovable limitation. 


*Now Naaman was a Leper, but * 

We envy one another ; we name in our minds the 
men with whom we would change places ; but that is 
because we are very foolish and have not grasped the 
idea of the universality of difficulty and pain. If all 
pain left a broad mark in the sufferer's forehead ; if, 
like the leprosy of Naaman, it could be seen at a 
glance, there would be an end of our fool's envying. 

I do not think that Naaman in his popularity and 
success was a much-envied man. There was the 
fame and the power — and the leprosy. There was 
the honour — and the suffering. It is always so. 
There is always the other side of things. And 
if we could change personalities, we should have 
to be prepared to take not only the joys and the 
opportunities and the satisfactions of that other 
man's life, but also the martyrdoms, the baffle- 
ments, the burdens and the unlifting shadows. And 
remembering this may help to make us less envious 
and more sympathetic. No man's life-story can be 
told without naming the hard thing in it — sometimes 
the tragically hard thing. For some it is persistent 
ill-health — a body that is continually disappointing 
them, failing them, thwarting them. For some it is 
a nervous temperament that demands a cruel price 
for the fulfilment of daily demands — demands which 
others can meet with ease, and even with pleasure. 
For this man it is the shadow of a cruel and devas- 


'Now Naaman was a Leper, but ' 

tating experience that must lie on his path to the last 
step of it ; and for that it is some constitutional defect 
that has to be reckoned with in everything he does. 
In short, Naaman the leper may be looked upon as 
typical of the widest and -most familiar range of 
human experience. 

And the question comes, How do we face this side 
of things ? Naaman faced it with courage. And it 
was courage of no mean order. It was not born of 
hope. We say sometimes, ' While there is life there 
is hope.' But that was not true in the case of the 
leper. He saw the long years of suffering, and knew, 
humanly speaking, that the way would only get 
harder the farther he went. Part of the work of life 
for him was to carry one of the heaviest burdens that 
a man ever has to carry — the burden of a dead hope. 
He could not say with regard to his disease, ' While 
there is life there is hope ' ; but he found a better and 
a nobler thing to say, 'While there is life there is 
duty.' There is no braver story in history than the 
story of them who have had to stoop and lift and 
bear the hope that might have lifted and borne them, 
if only both its wings had not been broken. Some of 
the world's leaders and deliverers and helpers have 
been men who have had courage to look beyond the 
thing that could not be, and who have known that 
the only way to overcome some things is to accept 


'Now Naaman was a Leper, but * 

them — the only way to conquer them is to bear them. 
The faith to remove mountains is not a complete 
equipment for life. We need also the courage and 
strength to climb them. There is something in- 
spiring and edifying in the picture of a man from 
whom much has been taken daring to believe that 
more is left — if only he has courage to look for it ; or 
in the picture of a man to whom much has been 
denied bravely confessing that more has been granted. 
The leper who found no time to pity himself or to 
bemoan his affliction ; who forgot himself in the 
manifold toils and responsibilities of a field-marshal 
and a cabinet minister ; and who saved his country's 
fortune at a critical period in her historj' — has some- 
thing to teach us. Of all the luxuries of life, perhaps 
the most unwarrantable and in the end the most 
wasteful and costly is the luxury of despair. And 
how many there are who indulge in it ! A man may 
have to walk in a deep shadow, but he has no right 
to sit in it. Much less has he the right to assume 
that that shadow loosens for him the bonds of duty, 
or absolves him from the claims of the world's work. 
Naaman did not let his leprosy spoil his career. 

Yet how many there are who do let the one thing 
they cannot have rob them of the hundred things 
that may be theirs. ' But he was a leper.' These 
words do not serve as an excuse for a life that failed ; 


*Now Naaman was a Leper, but * 

they serve rather as a dark background against 
which courage and endurance were able to paint a 
bright success. One cannot help feeling that Naa- 
man, who bowed himself in the temple of the god 
Rimmon, whose religion offered no interpretation of 
pain, and who lived ages before the world had heard 
of the Captain of its salvation ' made perfect through 
suffering,' offers at once an example and a rebuke to 
some who are numbered by their profession among 
the members of the Christian Church, and who yet 
let their pain of life destroy the promise of life, and 
who cease to work in the measure that they are called 
to suffer. 

And this brings us to the thing that was wanting 
in the courage and endurance of Naaman. As I 
conceded at the beginning, however instructive the 
story may be, it is pagan. Look at the Syrian 
captain sitting and fuming in his chariot at the 
door of Elisha. Look at the humiliating picture of 
this great lord in his pride and his rage and his 
wilfulness. His suffering had not sweetened his life. 
He had borne it ; but he had not understood it. He 
had not been able to interpret a word of it. That 
was not his fault. And there is a sense in which his 
brave conquest over a disability which held for him 
no high or beautiful meaning may well beget in our 
hearts much shame — shame that we for whom the 


* Now Naaman was a Leper, but- 

pain of life has been made somewhat intelligible 
should still find it in no wise bearable. If only 
Naaman had known that it is not every man who is 
counted worthy to suffer, if only he could have sat at 
the feet of St. Paul, and could have heard all which 
that troubled and yet triumphant life could have told 
him of the ministry of pain and of the divine fulfilment 
that lies concealed in earthly frustration, how much 
richer would have been the story of those brave 
years ! He did not know these things, and doubtless 
he was judged according to his knowledge ; but we 
know them, and we shall be judged according to ours. 

The lesson of Naaman's courage is one that we 
need perhaps to-day more than ever ; but it is not 
all that we need. He can teach us much ; but he 
cannot, no matter how long we study him, carry 
our education as far as it can be carried. 

To sum things up, what is it that he can teach us, 
and what are these other things he himself had not 
learned ? He can teach us to face the unalterable 
with courage. He can teach us that the inevitable 
is not the unconquerable ; that men are not useful 
because they are happy, but that they are happy 
because they are useful ; and that it takes more than 
the limitation resulting from ill-health, broken hopes, 
devastated resources, and persistently bitter experi- 
ences to blight a man's life. He can teach us how 


'Now Naaman was a Leper, but * 

much may be accomplished by the man who bravely 
accepts the call to work knowing that there is that in 
his life which must make every task harder, and every 
burden heavier to bear. And that much is worth 
learning. But Naaman cannot teach us the highest 
lessons of pain, and that interpretation of every hard 
thing that has been given to the world in the gospel 
of the suffering Son of God. Jesus has taught us by 
His life and by His Cross that pain is a burden 
meant to bless the life that bears it ; that the limita- 
tions of the outward life may help men to find the 
freedom of the inward life ; and that in Him all men 
may win the true victory over life's hard thing — the 
victory which cannot be his who merely faces pain 
with courage, or endures it with patience, but which 
awaits that man who by the grace of Christ finds its 
sacramental meaning, and passes through it into a 
better manhood on earth and a larger treasure in 


Consecration of the Commonplace 

As every day^s work required, — i Chron. xvi, 37. 

EVERY day's work ! Perhaps you think I 
might have found something better to speak 
about than that. The day's work ! You are tired 
of it. You are hand-weary and heart-weary with it. 
It is for many of you a story of care, and anxiety, 
and all sorts of hindrance and belittlement. For all 
of you it is something from which at times you are 
glad to turn. More than once you have been not 
a little weary of it. And now you have stolen away 
from it and all its associations for a while, and have 
sheltered yourselves in the peace of God's house; and 
lo ! the preacher has taken it for a text ! He might 
surely have found something higher and nobler, ' Give 
us some beautiful, inspiring, quiet thoughts that will 
lift our lives and hush our spirits. Take us into the 
temple. Take us through the rent veil. Let us stand 
with bowed heads before the precious mysteries of the 


Consecration of the Commonplace 

kingdom of God. Feed our hearts on life's inward 
things. Tell us about some of those things we have 
not had time to think of during the last six days. 
My friends, I would not help you to forget the day's 
work, if I could ; but I should like to help you to 
understand it. And as for taking you into the temple 
— that is just what I am doing. That is where I went 
to find this text. I saw the white-robed priests 
ministering before the altar. I heard their solemn 
litanies. I caught the fragrance of their incense. I 
stood among them as they performed their sacred 
ministry ; — and lo ! in the midst of it all I came across 
the day's work. I found it in the sanctuary. 

Let me read you the whole verse of which our text 
forms the conclusion. ' So he left there, before the ark 
of the covenant of the Lord, Asaph and his brethren, 
to minister before the ark continually, as every day's 
work required.' That was the law of service in the 
tabernacle, and that is the law of service in the lives 
of all who would give themselves to God. The 
temple service was the day's work ; the day's work 
was the temple service. And if it is given to me to 
make that a little plainer to some of you, I shall be 
well content. 

The tabernacle and its symbolism have passed away. 
We have heard of another temple, even the temple 
of the heart ; of another altar — the unseen altar of 

N 193 

Consecration of the Commonplace 

sacrifice. But we do not understand, or we but 
imperfectly understand, how that the law of that altar 
is written in the day's work. Too often we think of 
the law of that altar as something remote and sepa- 
rate. Ever and again we let the thick of the world 
come between us and it. We look on the day's work 
as something that stands between us and the way of 
worship. We do not understand that the law of the 
altar is written in life just as we have to live it. It is 
bound up in the daily demand. It is involved in our 
immediate circumstance. The shadow of the Cross 
lies on all our toil for bread ; and the manifold 
imperatives of earth are but the laws of heaven trans- 
lated into a language that all who would do right can 
understand. God claims us for Himself. He waits to 
write His name in our hearts and to accomplish His 
purpose in our lives ; but the fashion of that demand 
of His is ' as every day's work requires.' Religion is 
not something above and beyond life, it is not even 
something near life — it is life itself. It is the inward, 
all-persuasive spirit of it, if we are living as God means 
us to live. There is, it is true, an ineffable sacredness 
in the religion of Bethlehem and Calvary, but it is 
not the sacredness that must be isolated from a busy, 
dusty world. There are dogmas that mean little in 
the street and theologic definitions that are but a 
burden to the busy and a confusion to the simple, 


Consecration of the Commonplace 

but He to whom Bethlehem and Calvary owe all 
their significance lived and toiled and taught and 
sympathized and served in the heart of the workaday 

If Jesus Christ made men to know anything, surely 
it was this — that the busier and the dustier the world 
they lived in, the more did they need the plea of the 
altar and the shadow of the Cross. God does not 
take us out of the world of men and things to make 
us His own. The Prince of Peace does not fix a 
pause in the whirl and clatter of a toilsome world to 
make His claim good in our lives. He does not show 
us His salvation in spite of the day's work, but by 
means of it. It is not an obstacle He overcomes ; 
it is a means He uses. He comes to us in all we have 
to do from morn till even, and He says, * This is My 
work if it is well done.' 

We cannot hear too much about the divinity of 
toil, as long as we know what we are talking about. 
There is no divinity in toil for toil's sake. There is 
no spiritual glory and beauty in mere effort. Let us 
not deify labour. A man may work like a slave, and 
never catch a glimpse of God in all his toiling. But 
once let a man see the altar where the ultimate 
requirement of his work is written and the whole doing 
of it may be laid, and the seeming gulf between work 
and worship disappears. Once let a man see that the 
N 2 195 

Consecration of the Commonplace 

thing that is called dire necessity, force of circum- 
stance, bread-winning — the day's work — is just God 
coming to him, and speaking to him, and fashioning his 
life for him, and making him something better than he 
was and better than he is, — I say, let him see this, 
and then talk about the divinity of toil. Why, it is all 
divinity ! There is a great word that we are afraid to 
bring into our lives because we are so busy, and because 
we handle material things hour after hour — the word 
consecration. But, whether we name it or no, it belongs 
to life at its busiest, life in its lowliest toils and its 
most commonplace situations. Possibly we associate 
the consecration of our lives to God with the quiet of 
some never-to-be-forgotten Sabbath service, or some 
hour when away from the voices of the world we 
heard God speaking to us, and gave ourselves for the 
first time, or afresh, unto His service and into His 
keeping in the name of Christ our Saviour. These 
passages in our experience mean all we have ever 
taken them to mean — and more ; but we miss the 
truest significance of such experiences if our idea of 
consecration is limited to them. Consecration is not 
an act, it is an attitude. It is not an event, it is a 
process. It is not merely vowing a vow, it is keeping 
it. It is something that is made real and effectual as 
we meet the requirement of every day in the spirit of 
those memorable moments when in some special 


Consecration of the Commonplace 

manner God has touched our hearts and made His 
claim felt in our lives. There are no gaps in the 
divine purpose concerning us. God's work in our 
lives is all of a piece. The hours when the earthly 
fashion of life does not obscure its heavenly meaning, 
and when the divine claim seems the only thing worth 
listening to, are given to us for the sake of those 
hours when the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and 
when the many voices of the world are dinning their 
claims into our ears, 

* As every day's work required.' That is the defin- 
ing line of the service of faith. That is the measure 
of God's demand. Sometimes we do not understand 
this. We feel the consecrating power of solemn 
duties and great sorrows ; and of those days that 
bring us face to face with definite and final moral 
choices. But every day is not a great day in this 
sense. More often life's demands are monotonous, 
and the situations it creates for us day by day are 
unheroic, fretful, and even belittling. The very toils 
and troubles and besetments of our lives seem essen- 
tially commonplace. Sometimes the littleness of it 
all makes us sick at heart. 

But this is because we look at life in the wrong 
way. This is because we do not know that the temple 
service of life is not a periodic ceremonial, not a stately 
ordering of the soul at times and seasons. It is ' as 


Consecration of the Commonplace 

every day's work requires.' It is defined by and 
involved in the actual situation. Into all the grey 
fabric of life in its most familiar fashioning we can 
weave the golden threads of inward consecration. 
Common life's reality is one continuous opportunity 
for giving ourselves to God. The whole yielding of 
the heart's obedience to the will of the Heavenly 
Father is not finished in the hush of the Sabbath 
peace, in the call to a life-sacrifice or a life-sorrow. 
It is done little by little. It is involved in Hfe's sim- 
plicities, its necessities, its monotonies, and its details. 
When you feel that to be so, you know that, for the 
soul, life is always great, and there are no trifles. 

The trivial round, the common task, 
Will furnish all we ought to ask : 
Room to deny ourselves — a road 
To bring us daily nearer God. 

Thus we sing and thus we speak ; and yet we go 
forth to find in the trivial round nothing but triviality, 
and in the common task nothing to make us sure of 
God and truth. 

Perhaps there are some listening to me who 
have not answered the divine claim ; who have 
made no attempt to offer to God in Jesus Christ the 
sacrifice of the heart. You are waiting, maybe, as I 
believe many do wait, for some special and irresistible 
appeal — some hour when, spaced off from all the 


Consecration of the Commonplace 

ministry of toil and care, you shall hear God speaking 
to you in sure and unmistakable tones. But are you 
not ignoring that appeal of His to you that is in 
every hour and place of life ? ' As every day's work 
requires.' Do you not see how close that brings God 
to you ? Do you not see how near to you lies the 
way of life and peace and godly service ? The day's 
work ! The thing you are tired of; the thing you 
think you know so well ; the thing that holds for you 
no surprises, no revelations, no thrills of joy, no 
abiding satisfactions of spirit. Perhaps you do not 
know as much about it as you think. Perhaps you 
have only seen the earthly aspect of it — the wrong 
side of it, so to speak. The face of God, the peace of 
Jesus Christ, the light of the Spirit — you may find all 
these in the day's work if only you will believe it. 
This is God's way into our lives. This is our way into 
His life. This is the secret of sainthood — serving 
the divine Master as every day's work requires, 
recognizing the divine law in all human necessity. 
Seek for a truer sense of this daily requirement folded 
in life just as you have to live it. To bring the ten- 
derness of Jesus Christ into every relationship, and 
the faithfulness of Jesus Christ into every labour; to 
remember that the inner purpose of the heart is the 
thing by which we stand or fall ; to live for justice as 
some live for gain ; and to serve the world, not 


Consecration of the Commonplace 

according to its base demands and harsh imperatives, 
but according to the large helpfulness of love — this is 
to live life ' as every day's work requires.' And for 
the man who lives thus the law of the altar ever 
becomes clearer and more continuously manifest in 
all that he has to suffer or to do, and every day 
finds him more sure that, for them that believe, the 
purposes of heaven are fulfilled and not frustrated 
through the necessities of earth. 


The Large Room 

Thou hast set my feet in a large room. — Ps. xxxi. 8. 

TO many people these seem strange words to 
come from the lips of age and experience. It 
is youth and inexperience that find the world a large 
room. Before we came into touch with the realities 
of life, while the powers of mind and heart were still 
untried, we had visions of very wide possibilities, we 
felt within us suggestions of unfettered and inex- 
haustible powers. The world is a very roomy place 
— for the bairns. There are no impossibilities in the 
nursery. But as the happy careless days are left 
behind us ; as the days come when we have to think 
for ourselves, when life is no longer bounded by the 
morning and the evening of each day; as we look 
back on a past of which we are often heartily 
ashamed, or forward to a future of which we are 
not a little afraid ; as the rounding years bring 
responsibilities and sorrows, — the world seems to 
shrink, life closes in upon us and leaves us scarcely 


The Large Room 

room to breathe, and existence sometimes appears a 
very narrow, limited, and hampered affair. Those of 
you who have revisited places and scenes after the 
lapse of years will remember how much smaller 
everything appeared to you on that second visit. I 
remember during my college days visiting a well- 
known town in Derbyshire where I spent three years 
of my early boyhood. I went to the old manse 
garden — a garden that had once seemed so large that 
I felt a little bit lonely when the long shadows of the 
evening crept across the lawn, and darker shades 
gathered beneath the trees. I could hardly believe 
that I was back in the old spot ; for I had always 
thought of that lawn as a prairie, and the few trees 
had been a forest. The place had grown smaller. 
No, it hadn't! It hadn't altered by a hand-breadth. 
It was I who had grown. Life seems to us at the 
beginning to have so much to give, because we have 
so little to ask. It may seem to us sometimes as if 
the supply had grown less ; we are nearer the truth 
when we say the demand has grown greater. Life 
was boundless only because we could not see the 
boundaries. Now we have stronger vision, and we 
can see them ; and now we must pray for stronger 
vision still — vision that can see beyond them. Every 
one has to part with that sense of the world's wideness 
that is born of a child's false perspective. Every one 


The Large Room 

must say good-bye to the freedom that comes of 
ignorance. Every one must outgrow the life that 
is easily satisfied, easily filled. But all do not realize 
that a man's emptiness is a finer thing than a child's 
fullness— that the process of growing up is not a 
narrowing, but a widening process. We must pass 
from the life in which we can see no limitations, into 
the life in which we overcome them. The worst of it 
is that so many count the illimitable horizon of child- 
hood as nothing more than a beautiful illusion. They 
do not understand how that it is the will of God that 
a man should pass out of the wideness that seems 
into the wideness that is; and the way into that 
real wideness lies through much that is narrow and 
hard— much that hinders the feet and chafes the 


'Thou hast set my feet in a large room.' The 
writer of those words had left his childhood far behind 
him. He had entered into manhood's inheritance of 
duty and responsibility. He had been many a time 
over-caught in the coil of adverse circumstance ; he 
had sorrowed and suffered and sinned ; he had 
faced temptation and found bitter proof of his 
own weakness ; he had faced the many-sided and 
intricate problem of existence; he knew some- 
thing of the inevitable and the unalterable,— and 
yet, calmly mindful of all this, his verdict upon 


The Large Room 

existence was this : * Thou hast set my feet in a large 

After having seen the sordidness and meanness and 
littleness of things, David still held that life is a grand, 
free, glorious gift — that it is liberty and opportunity 
and hope. What was the secret of his wide and 
worthy view of life ? How had he escaped these 
narrower and meaner thoughts that crowd into men's 
minds and belittle their lives ? He had laid hold 
upon God. He looked at life through the divine 
purpose. He found the high and noble meaning of 
the dusty parable that men call the day's work. 
When he talks of life as a large room, it is really his 
way of saying, ' Thy service is perfect freedom.' If 
life is lived to God, then it is wider than any man can 
measure. We look at life as it comes day after day 
with the same duties and difficulties and needs; we 
face the little cares and vexations that are never long 
absent from any one's experience ; and life becomes 
mechanical, monotonous, insignificant. We conclude 
that life is dull and cramped and narrowed down ; 
and whether we express it in words or no, the thought 
of our heart is this, ' Thou hast set my feet in a small 
room.' And we come to that conclusion because we 
have missed the very purpose for which God has set 
us where He has set us, and made us what we are. 
If you think you are here in this world to make a 



The Large Room 

name for yourself that shall be in other men's lips ; 
if you think the chief end of your being is that you 
should enjoy yourself; then your measurements of 
this room of life are about accurate. But supposing 
you admit you are here to grow a soul — supposing 
you discover that there is a spiritual and eternal signifi- 
cance in every detail of the day's life : what then ? 
I think you will be led to the conclusion that you are 
living in a room that God alone can measure, and 
you will find that the dimensions of life are infinite. 
If you are bent on what you call good fortune, then 
very likely life is a meagre and contemptible chance ; 
but if your heart is set on a good character, then 
opportunity assumes boundless proportions. Life is 
a pitiably small room for the people who do not 
know why they are here at all ; or who, knowing 
something of life's highest purposes and ends, 
deliberately seek something lower than the highest 
and less than the best. If your shop is only a place 
for merchandise ; if your kitchen has nothing more 
than a domestic significance ; then I confess life is a 
very small affair, and it is a great question whether 
it is really worth while going on with it at all. But 
God means you to get beyond the brief moment and 
the earthly means, into the vast eternal reason for 
existence. Buying and selling are small things ; but 
honesty is a very great thing. There is nothing very 


The Large Room 

significant or impressive about the household work ; 
but patience and kindh'ness, and service of one 
another are great, deathless things. The pains that 
our bodies suffer, the fret and jar of circumstance and 
all life's common necessities, are small things in them- 
selves; but the courage and sympathy and self-control 
and unselfishness that in the purpose of God are to 
grow out of these things, are great with a greatness 
we cannot at present estimate. The things that we 
call hindrances are, if we but knew it, spacious op- 
portunities for brave and worthy living. If a man is 
bent on serving himself and his desire, then very often 
the day's life becomes to him a prison-house from 
which there is no escape ; but if he be bent on serving 
the God above him, then in his most hard-pressed 
moments he shall taste the liberty of obedience, and 
in his most straitened circumstance he shall breathe 
the ampler air in which it is given unto every faithful 
heart to dwell. Life is a small room for the man 
who tries to please himself, but it is a very large 
room for the man who is willing to deny himself. If 
love, and faith, and toil, and prayer, and patience, and 
a good conscience, and service of the brethren are 
the best things — the things that count and last — then 
I say the room of life is larger than many would have 
us believe, and holds for us more possibility than we 
shall ever fully realize and use. Never can we call 


The Large Room 

life narrow and cramped while there is * room to deny 
ourselves,' to save our brethren, and to follow the 

' Thou hast set my feet in a large room,' Sin, more 
than anything else, seems to take the meaning out 
of these words. There is the inherited weakness 
and the encircling contagion. Within us, the evil 
tendency ; without us, the unhallowed opportunity. 
Sometimes a man accepts the pressing solicitation of 
evil, or yields to the hot-handed grip of the world's 
desire ; and then with a demeaned dignity and lowered 
self-respect, he measures life and finds he has but a 
few square feet in which to stand and call himself a 
fool. Did I say he measures life ,-' I withdraw that 
word. He measures his shame and his weakness, — 
his poor failure. But these are not life — they are only 
things that lead the way to it. 

For this is life : to love the hght, 
To see the best, to ask for all ; 
To seek a city out of sight, 
In spite of failure and of fall. 

It is through the narrow winding ways of manifold 
temptation that a man enters into the splendid sweep 
of his own soul's liberty. We have to think of the 
things that are given to us in the fighting, and the 
things that wait us when the fight is fought. What 
happens to the man who resolutely takes his place in 


The Large Room 

the battle against sin — his own sin, the world's sin ? 
Day by day the soul within him, that has its birth- 
place and its goal beyond the stars, asserts itself, as it 
discovers larger rights and possibilities, and an ever 
surer hope of victory gives vision not bounded by life's 
most pressing and persistent circumstance. Day by 
day it becomes more apparent that the life of the soul 
is circled by an horizon that its most daring dreams 
have never scanned, and that for the pure-hearted the 
dusty, choking, hand-to-hand encounter with sin holds 
promise wider than the world. My friend, if in this 
day of much striving you are growing sick and weary, 
let me remind you of the great end of it all. You are 
not fighting for the little patch of trampled earth 
beneath your feet — where the grass and the flowers 
have been beaten into common dust. You are fight- 
ing for the right and fitness to enter the Land that is 
very far off, where, by the river of nameless peace, 
men have life because they see God. Surely the 
life that finds room for a fight like that, is a wide 

' Thou hast set my feet in a large room.' Those 
are the words of a man who has felt the force of his 
own immortality. He has found that on one side of 
this room of life there is no wall to limit and fold us. 
Life goes out into God's eternity. That is where God 
has fashioned it to go. Too often we find our eternity 


The Large Room 

in the calendar, and measure infinity by a foot-rule. 
We think there is nothing in this room of life that 
cannot be submitted to our chronology and our men- 
suration. ' Thou hast set my feet in a small room. I 
know it is small ; I have measured it, I have sat in it 
and listened to the ticking of the seconds and the 
chiming of the hours.' O foolish one ! You have 
only measured three sides of that room. You cannot 
measure the fourth side unless you can measure God. 

We batter and bruise ourselves against the hard 
wall of life's stern necessities, its painful compulsions, 
its seemingly unheeding laws ; and we deduce from 
our aching spirits a parable of life's narrowness. 
And yet, if we but recognized it, if we but trusted 
our hearts instead of our eyes, we should know that 
God is the soul's circumstance, and His infinitude is 
its breathing-space. ' Thou hast set my feet in a 
large room ' — for Thou hast set me to live where I 
may find Thee, and serve Thee, and grow like unto 
Thee. I have Thy mercy to live by, Thy work to 
do. Thy heaven to win ; and that is enough — for 
it is all.' 



Going in the Strength of the Lord 

I will go in the strength of the Lord. — Ps. Ixxi. i6. 

THIS is one of the longest texts in the Bible. In 
its application it covers an indefinite period of 
time. The way to write this text is to put a few 
asterisks after the first three words, ' I will go.' 
Asterisks, as you know, are used in books to signify 
a lapse of time. They denote that there is a space of 
time — days, or it may be years — between the story 
that comes before them and the story that follows them. 
So, I say, we need asterisks in this text. There is 
sometimes a long stretch of years between * I will go' 
and ' in the strength of the Lord.' There is often a 
lapse of time ere the first and last words of this verse 
meet, ' I ' and ' the Lord.' Divinity is not always the 
first resource of humanity. Often it is its last resource. 
Men do not learn all at once to take God into their 
reckonings when they make their plans and forecast 
their endeavours. Some never learn that. And how- 
ever the world may judge them, however it may con- 



Going in the Strength of the Lord 

gratulate them and envy them, whatever the fashion of 
their earthly fortunes, they are the failures — the real 
and final failures ; and the day comes when they know 
that this is so. 

' I will go.' That is often the whole text in lips of 
inexperience. I speak to you who are so sure of your- 
selves. You with your youth and your untried strength, 
that is so much as you look at it, but that will prove to 
be so little when you come to spend it. At the begin- 
ning of life we look on our resources somewhat as 
the boy looks at his first half-sovereign. That little 
yellow coin is a perfect mint of money, till he comes 
to spend it, and very likely when it is gone he has 
precious little to show for it. It did not buy much. 
It just melted. So with life. Life comes to us as an 
inexhaustible inheritance — a limitless patrimony, and 
there be not a few, I fear, who at the end of the day 
have little left them but to wonder what has become 
of all they once had. So, I say, the words in the lips 
of youth are these : ' " I will go." Do not talk to me 
about strength for the going. Am I not strong? 
Cannot I stand this journey of life ? Of course I can. 
I feel able to go anywhere, climb any height, descend 
into any valley, cross the widest plain. I am not 
troubled about my ability to face the road. " I will 
go " — I must go. There are a thousand voices calling 
me in the world of men and things. There are so 

O 2 211 

Going in the Strength of the Lord 

many things I want to see — I will go and see them ; 
so many things I want to gain — I will go and gain 
them ; so many things I want to enjoy — I will go 
and enjoy them. I know I can.' 

Oh the wild strong will of youth ! Oh the omnipo- 
tence of those early determinations ! Oh the finality 
of those early decisions ! * I will go in mine own 
strength. It is enough, and it will never fail me.' 
But oh, how tired the feet grow ! and how far away 
the blue mountains ever are ; and the journey grows 
greater and the pilgrim's strength less every day. 
And it may be there comes a day when the traveller 
can go no farther, all the strength of love and hope 
and enthusiasm expended. And there is nothing for 
it but despair or divinity. The soul finds God or 
it finds nothing. Life becomes a tragic failure or a 
triumph of faith. Sometime and somewhere in life a 
man has to learn the limits of self-help. He has to 
learn that nothing but heavenly strength can make 
life practicable. And the question of success or failure 
depends on whether he learns this lesson with the sun 
in the east and the day before him, or whether he 
learns it when the westerir^ light casts long shadows 
on the way, telling him there are for him but a few 
more steps to take, and he must needs lean his worn 
and broken humanity on God if he is to take even 


Going in the Strength of the Lord 

I do not say to you as you look within and forward 
that hope is not strong, that enthusiasm is not guer- 
doned with splendid energy, and that love is not 
grandly availing. I do not wish you to think lightly 
of life as God has given it to you. I would only 
remind you that there are weights of weakness, blows 
of temptation, and tempests of shame that are heavy 
and strong enough to break the wings of hope, and 
enthusiasm, and the very heart of love — for the life 
that is without God in the world. 

But it may be that no one at the beginning of life 
can feel the full force of such thoughts as these. 
With the sense of unmeasured and inexhaustible 
power within, the promise of difficulty acts as a 
stimulus and a challenge rather than as a reason for 
a careful and thoughtful cimsideration of the situa- 
tion. You may say to me, ' I know that life is neither 
easy nor safe. I know there are hindrances and risks 
and threats. That is part of my reason for going 
forth to meet it gaily and gladly. I would not thank 
you for a life with never a hill to breast, never a 
wrestle with the elements, never the chance of an 
ambushed foe.' Well, maybe such thoughts, such 
gallant and tingling anticipations, belong to life's 
early years. Maybe you cannot, standing straight 
and joyous in the morning light, lean on God as you 
will need to lean on Him ere the last long hill be 


Going in the Strength of the Lord 

climbed, and the last cruel foe be slain ; but it is 
much to feel Him near you, to find His presence in 
your worship, prayer, and faith, so that when the 
dangers that seem to-day beyond realization shall by- 
and-by be beyond escape you may be able to say, 
' Thou art my strong refuge.' 

But supposing that instead of thinking about the 
way itself, we begin to think about the end of the 
way. Instead of thinking about the difficulty of life, 
let us think about the destiny of life. * I will go in 
mine own strength.' Yes, but where will you go ? 
What is to be your destination ? You may have 
health and skill to work, and the brain to think, and 
the heart to make many friends ; and if the end of 
life were just to become a skilled workman, a clever 
student, or a social success, — why you might do that 
' on your own.' 

But when you come to understand, as I would that 
you might understand even here and now, that you 
are here in the world to make a saint, to find some of 
the meaning of the immortal ideas of beauty, truth, 
goodness, sacrifice, and to develop and cherish in your 
heart that love that loves for love's sake, unrepelled 
by ugliness, unchilled by indifference, undaunted by 
malice, — why then, I say, you are face to face with 
something that strikes through your self-confidence 
and drives home into your soul a sense of your insuf- 


Going in the Strength of the Lord 

ficiency for life as it was meant to be lived. ' I will 
go.' Say no more than that if you are only going to 
the market to make the best of a few bargains, and to 
the social circle to get the good word of a few friends. 
But that is not life. That is not finding your destina- 
tion ; that is missing the way — and any one with 
neither genius nor industry can do that. 

Beware of finding too easy an interpretation of life. 
If you were to study the Greek manuscripts from 
which we get the text of our New Testament you 
would sometimes find two different renderings of the 
same text. Now, whenever that happens, the student, 
amongst other things of course, has to remember this 
law of criticism, ' The more difficult reading is to be 
preferred.' I will tell you why. When a scribe was 
copying a portion of Scripture, say a passage from 
St. Paul, if he came to a word that he could not under- 
stand he was tempted now and again to substitute for 
it an easier word — something that made sense as he 
thought. He was never tempted to take a plain verse 
and put in a word that made its meaning hard and 
obscure. So the student has to remember that of two 
readings the harder one — the one that takes more 
understanding, more thinking out — is probably the 
older and truer one. So is it with life. It is the 
hard reading that is the true one. Jesus Christ has 
given that interpretation of life to us all. For ease, 


Going in the Strength of the Lord 

He says, we must read discipline, for pleasure we must 
read duty, for man's desire we must read God's 
commandment, and for self-interest we must read 
sacrifice. And these words that Jesus has given us 
as the true reading of life reveal to us a path that no 
man can find and follow unless he has the Divine 
Friend at his side. 

Now I would bid you look at life as He shows 
it to you. Look at the things that give meaning and 
value and immortality to life. People sometimes say 
to youth, * The world is at your feet.' But that is not 
true unless heaven is in your heart. Look out beyond 
the brief ambitions, the trivial honours, the cheap 
victories, and the spurious gains of earth, and behold 
— oh, so far beyond them all ! — the stainless light 
shining from the towers and pinnacles of the city of 
God. And know that if ever you are to come to the 
gates of that city, it must be by winning a victory 
compared with which every temporal achievement is 
but child's play. For the everlasting shelter and 
reward of that city are not for them whose hands are 
full, but for them whose hands are clean ; not for 
them who have won honours, but for them who have 
learned humility ; not for the successful, but for the 
unselfish ; not for the clever, but for the faithful ; not 
for them that have won the world as their prize, but 
for them that have overcome the world by the grace 


Going in the Strength of the Lord 

of that eternal life Christ giveth unto them that trust 
and follow Him. 

And we are here in this world to find that city, to 
obey the laws of it in our hearts every day, and to 
come to the glory of it at the end of the days. What 
shall we say, we who are foolish of thought, weak of 
will, and sinful of heart — ' I will go'? No, that is not 
enough. It was enough when our destination was the 
market-place, but it will never take us to the city of 
God. We must turn to One who came to us here 
that we might go to Him there. We must ask for 
that strength that is folded in the forgiving love and 
renewing grace of God in Christ our Saviour. The 
Cross that stood at the end of His journey — the ful- 
filment of life — stands at the beginning of ours, the 
inspiration of life. And there we may learn to say, 
' I will go in the strength of the Lord.' 

2J 7 


Inspiration and Outlook^ 

And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out 
of )uy Spirit upon all flesh : and your sons and your daughters shall 
prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall 
dieam dreams. — AcTS ii. 1 7. 

And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming downjrom 
God out of heaven. — Rev. xxi. 2. 

IN dealing with these passages let us be very 
practical. It would be easy to talk vaguely about 
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in human hearts 
bringing visions to the young and dreams to the old. 
The advantage of this method would be that somebody 
would be certain to be well satisfied with the discourse. 
Some people like teaching — if one may dignify it with 
tliat great name — that is a bit misty. It hangs round 
their minds for half-an-hour like a pleasing nimbus, 
and is so easily forgotten. Now, to keep well out of 
the zone of mist, I have set side by side with this 
great prophecy concerning the work of the Divine 

* Preached at the Wesley Guild Conference, Aberystwyth, 

Whitsuntide 1906. 


Inspiration and Outlook 

Spirit, a plain and historical example of that work ; 
and I am going to preach to you not from the prophecy 
as an abstract doctrine of inspiration, nor from that 
great tidal wave of the new life that carried on its 
crest preacher and hearers what time the new age was 
ushered in ; but from this one definite illustration of 
what the Holy Spirit did in the heart of a man — of 
how it taught him to look out upon the future of 

We might call our subject the Holy Spirit and the 
human outlook. ' I, John, saw the holy city, new 
Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.' 
That was the vision of the Spirit. Let us accept it 
as it is given to us. Let us not try to spiritualize it. 
It is quite spiritual enough. Our business is to try 
to understand it. Sometimes when we think we are 
spiritualizing a thing we are really vapourizing it, 
and there is our mist again. 

Let us take it that this man who tells us he was in 
the Spirit saw the holy city coming down from 
God ; as radiant and beautiful as a bride adorned for 
her husband. Some men look up and behold the face 
of silence, and the plains of peace, and the glory of 
the stars. And such a vision is worth something to 
the life that sees it. But here is a man who was in 
the Spirit, a man who had some share in the precious 
mystery of the awakened and renewed heart, and 


Inspiration and Outlook 

when he looked up he saw not the light of the stars 
— but the light of a city. My friends, divine inspira- 
tion is not only the greatest fact in life, but it is also 
the most practical. It brings us near to God, but also 
near to life. What does the city stand for ? It stands 
for human life with all its possibilities, its problems, 
and its pains. It stands for humanity in all its 
relationships — all its inner forces and all its outward 
forms. It stands for men and women, loving, toiling, 
hoping, sorrowing, suffering, sinning. 

Oh the message of the city and the need of it ! 
There is no mistaking it — there is no getting away 
from it. It is no dream. It is naked and aggressive 
reality. Whatever a city meant to St. John, we know 
what it means to-day in our modern world. Many 
of us here have come from one or other of the great 
industrial centres. It is not too much to suppose that 
we all know something about the existing conditions 
of town life. The mention of the city makes us 
think of dark courts, houses in which our brothers and 
sisters ought never to live, the flaring yellow lights of 
the public-houses, men and women whom poverty and 
sin have reft of all the joy of living, and who steer 
their lives by these flaring yellow lights, little children 
with disease in their bones and unveiled sin before 
their young eyes every day, a group of little fellows 
on the pavement with their heads clustered together 

Inspiration and Outlook 

over a washy sporting paper — and all the abomina- 
tions and shames and pathos that Ruskin calls * the 
darkness of the terrible streets.' I know as well as 
you do that that is not all. There is many a sweet 
and beautiful thing in the city. How could it be 
otherwise? If there is any truth in the great thought 
that lies at the heart of this festival of the Christian 
year — then the ' Spirit of the Lord is in the midst of 
the city.' But, for all that, take it all in all, a great 
city is the saddest place on God's earth ; and the 
sadness and the sin that are found tJiere are found in 
proportionate measure in all the places, even the 
seeming peaceful hamlets, where men dwell and work. 
' I, John, saw the holy city coming down from God out 
of heaven.' The more you think of it the less you 
will wonder at this vision of St. John. When he says 
he saw, as he did once see, harpers, and palm-bearers 
and processions of angels and archangels, we may be 
forgiven for saying to him — ' Well, and what of that ? ' 
But he saw a holy city, a city whose joys were clean 
joys, whose pleasures were pure pleasures, whose 
gains were honest gains, whose service was perfect 
freedom — a city whose citizens walked and worked in 
the light of God's face. Is not that what you and I 
say we want to see ? Is it not what we ought to see ? 
Nay, I will go further and ask is it not what — if we 
are in the Spirit — we shall see ? A holy city. I 


Inspiration and Outlook 

don't mean by-and-by when God calls us to Him- 
self. I mean here and now. St. John was not in 
heaven when he had his vision, he was — where God 
grant this day's worship may bring us all — in the 

St. John called the city New Jerusalem. I can 
find it in my heart to be almost sorry that he named 
it. It shows his vision was practical ; but it has 
helped to make our vision vague and remote. When 
St. John spoke of the New Jerusalem, do you think 
he had completely forgotten the old Jerusalem } 
Don't you think he thought it was time that they had 
a new city ? Don't you think his vision taught him it 
could be made new ? By what authority, pray, have 
we translated this expression New Jerusalem by that 
vague word heaven ? It is all wrong. For the last 
three years I have been calling it Birmingham. My 
friends, we shall do no good in the world, until under 
the practical dominance of the Divine Spirit we come 
to know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the holy 
city is not something to be longed for in the heavens 
of God, but something to be builded in the earth 
which is His also. We have sat and sung, ' Oh what 
must it be to be there,' but that chorus does not hold 
the high-water mark of the spirit-filled life. That life 
at its best is not the life of a singer — it is the life of a 
builder. Let us not do what many people — and I am 


Inspiration and Outlook 

afraid I must say specially young people — are doing, 
and that is, think that the truest expression of the 
spirit-filled life is in the lilt of popular mission song. 
If you are in the Spirit and if the Spirit is in you, re- 
newing your mind and cleansing your heart, you will 
find the question, ' What must it be to be there ? ' 
very secondary to this question, ' What will it be 
like if only we can make here as beautiful as 
there ? ' 

That is the work of the Spirit We are not to be 
singers of ' glory songs,' we are to be builders of the 
city of God in the earth. 

' I saw the holy city coming down from God out 
of heaven.' Perhaps we have been too much con- 
cerned with where the Holy Spirit can lift us to and 
prepare us for, to see as we should the vision of 
what that Spirit has for us to do here and now. We 
are very anxious that earth should go to heaven ; we 
do not always lealize that the great purpose that God 
the Spirit is to accomplish is just the opposite. He 
is to bring heaven to earth. He is to make heaven 
in our lives. Let us not think of heaven as a kind 
of glorified suburb of earth to which the spiritually 
successful may ht)pe some day to retire and find a 
bit of quiet. I should be sorry to think of a heaven 
like that, and should have positively no desire to go 
to it. Heaven is just what God is trying to make 


Inspiration and Outlook 

earth. Every city is meant to be a heavenly city. 
Call to mind those grand words of Zechariah that we 
read together just now, about God dwelling in the 
city — a real earthly city, mind you, with its old folk- 
leaning on their staves, and its little children playing 
in the street — and making it a city of truth. That is 
what God is doing. Never a day passes in the cities 
of men in which this great miracle of the Spirit does 
not take place. It is a continuous miracle. Call it 
what you like — renewal, regeneration, the new life, 
the baptism of the Spirit — call it all these things, it is 
the holy city with its light and law and love coming 
down into the hearts of the children of men. And 
you see what that means. It means another absolutely 
honest man in the market-place, another light-filled 
life in the workshop, another man with the sin of the 
city under his feet, another breath of prayer and 
reverence and godliness going forth to sweeten the 
life of the factory, the school, the home, the study, 
and the street. This is the fruit of the Spirit. 

This is not all. There is a fathomless mystical 
story of the Spirit that no man can tell. There is all 
the infinite grace and mystery that must belong to 
the life of God living itself out through the mind and 
heart and character of them that trust Him. There 
are anointings for special work, and baptisms of know- 
ledge and power for individual souls. But all these 


Inspiration and Outlook 

things issue in the fact that the Spirit of God in our 
hearts will first of all and always make us look for the 
holy city and work for it. It will make us bold to claim 
here and now all that belongs to it. ' There shall 
be no night there.' Why wait for heaven to interpret 
that for you ? Is not the night the parable of all 
dark and evil things ? No night there ; then no night 
here — no slum, no drunkard, no gambler, no thief, no 
pauper, no libertine. That is not the final ideal for 
the age of the Spirit, but if you try to live up to that 
in your prayer and faith and toil, you will, I think, 
be busy for some time to come, and you will be 
well employed. 

Oh this city, this new and glorious city coming 
down from God out of heaven ! How can we see it ? 
How can the light of its towers, and the delight of all 
its pleasant places, and the beauty of its life and 
the sweetness of its laws, — I say how can these things 
kindle our imagination and fill us with enthusiasm 
and devotion if we never see them ? And this is the 
vision for them that are in the Spirit. 

This brings us, where every study of religion or of 

life brings us, face to face with a personal question. 

All religion is personal religion. We may talk of the 

family or the city or the nation or the human race — 

but these are only terms in which we think of a larger 

or smaller number of individuals. No matter how 
p 225 

Inspiration and Outlook 

big and wide the truth you are thinking about, think 
about it long enough and honestly enough, and you 
will find yourself alone with it in the chamber of your 
heart. Only the holy heart can see the holy city. 
We have but one tiny window through which to get our 
view of life, and everything depends on whether that 
window be clean. And let us follow this thought a 
step farther. The holy city can only come through 
the holy citizen. That which is to be the light and 
law of the city must first be the light and law of the 
house. I mean the house of life. The coming of the 
holy city may be discussed in the larger councils of 
men — it can only be decided on each man's own 
threshold and in each man's own heart. How stands 
it, then, with you, my friend .'* 

Here on this great Festival Day of the Spirit — and 
in every day that dawns and dies — it is yours to 
accept or reject the grace of the Holy Spirit offered 
to your heart ; and so, doing the one or the other as 
you must, you hasten or retard the building of the 
holy city in the life of the world. 


True Imperialism 

The shadow of Egypt. — IsA. xxx. 2. 

MANY of the changes that time brings are on 
the surface of life. There is a certain stabiHty 
at the heart of things. The great laws of life change 
not. The selfsame sunlight that put an end to 
Jacob's conflict with the angel gilds our joys and 
guides our toils to-day. So is it with these human 
hearts of ours. So is it with the great common 
sentiments and necessities. Motives that swayed 
men's lives when the world was young can be traced 
in modern life. Life changes its costume more easily 
than it changes its character. When we say that 
history repeats itself, we do not mean that there are 
occasional coincidences ; we mean rather that the best 
and the worst in human life have a tendency to per- 
petuate themselves, and that through all the ages the 
human heart beats to the same tune, cherishes some 
of the same nobilities and the same follies, and shows 

P 2 227 

True Impcrtalism 

itself capable of much that is fine and much that is 

So we may go back through very many centuries 
and find in a bit of ancient history that which is 
repeating itself in the life of to-day. The national 
question among the Jews of Hezekiah's day was, How 
can we shake off the Assyrian yoke ? And the popular 
solution of the problem was, Enter into an alliance 
with Egypt. True, Egypt was a land of many 
idols, but it was also a land of many horses and 
chariots, and full coffers. And there have always 
been those in the world who, when they have wanted 
chariots, have not been over particular where they 
borrowed them. There have always been those who 
would fraternize with an idolater — provided he was a 
rich idolater. Egypt was powerful with that kind of 
power that the world and the devil can fully appre- 
ciate. There is a might that calls to the world in the 
clang of iron and the thunder of horsemen and the 
clink of gold, and many there be that trust in it. 
There is a might that lifts not up its voice in the 
clamour of the world, but that pleads its rights and its 
power in the silences of thought, in the quiet inner 
place where conscience dwells, in the depths of all 
true feeling, and on the lonely heights of the ideal — 
and would to God that you and I had more faith 
in it. 


True Imperialism 

The choice between these two is ever before us. 
Since the days of Hezekiah, kingdoms have risen 
to greatness and sunk into oblivion. The great 
centres of power and industry, of learning and 
dominion, have shifted steadily westward. Places 
that once pulsated with industrial activity and political 
influence have now little more than an archaeological 
significance. But the heart of the West to-day is as 
the heart of the East in many a dim yesterday, and 
the thing against which the Jewish prophet protested 
is the thing against which some one must protest 
still — even trust in the shadow of Egypt. Recall 
for a moment the stately and spiritual interest of a 
song that Israel sang in the days of a purer and more 
reverent national life. ' He that dwelleth in the 
secret place of the Most High shall abide under the 
shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He 
is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust. 
Surely He shall deliver thee.' Then the shadow of 
Egypt fell on the people. They transferred their 
allegiance, not deliberately, but none the less really, 
from the unseen to the seen. The great changes of 
life, and especially those for the worse, are often 

Now I want you to think for a moment about our 
own dear country — this England of ours we love so 
well. Of recent years a great word has been upon 


True Imperialism 

our lips, and that word is Imperialism. And it is a 
noble and worthy word. It stands for something 
that finds room for the expansive and unselfish powers 
of a great people. But there are things associated 
with this thing as men name it and think of it and 
seek it to-day, that lack nobility and pure worth. As 
I hear it there is too much thunder in it. It is too 
suggestive of chariots and horsemen and the strength 
of iron and the worth of gold. The shadow of Egypt 
is upon it. If we are to save this great word Empire 
from belittlement and abuse, if we are to keep the 
dignity of it intact and the glory of it unstained, if 
we are to save it from becoming the catchword of 
politicians or a high-sounding name for greedy com- 
mercialism, we must take it out of the shadow of 
Egypt, where great things lose their greatness and 
noble things their nobility, and we must let the shadow 
of the Almighty fall upon it. The true Imperialism 
is to be realized and safeguarded not by those who 
are looking for a wider frontier — but by those who 
are seeking a higher faith. Whenever an Empire has 
been threatened, the first whisper of that threat has 
always been heard in the streets of its own cities. 
The peril of a nation, as the peril of a soul, is ever 
within and not without. Read your Gibbon, and you 
shall catch the first warning of Rome's ruin not in the 
growls of the Goths whose heroes came up against her, 


True Imperialism 

but in the feasting and the boasting and noting of that 
vicious capital and of all the cities of that Empire. 
The things that threaten national prestige and power, 
even as the things that make them, are found in the 
heart of the people. I for one believe that the day is 
not far distant when he alone will be hailed as an 
Imperialist who thinks more of his country's obliga- 
tions than of its rights, more of its debts than its dues, 
more of the grave and holy responsibility of power 
possessed than of the acquisition of more. We shall 
come to see that a man cannot think imperially unless 
he thinks unselfishly. The safety and the sovereignty 
of England has never been in the sole keeping of the 
diplomat, the general, and the admiral. It has ever 
been, and will ever be in all who stand for the 
Empire of the Christ, who know that the foundations 
of true dominion are not dug with the sword, that 
a nation is great not by the sweep of its territory 
but by the justice and mercy of its rule, that national 
wealth is not a thing of square miles and golden 
millions but of godliness, truth, and love — of power to 
see and fitness to serve the high abiding spiritual 
interests of our common humanity. 

God has given to our Island Race the spirit of 
enterprise and adventure. England's sons fare forth 
into all the world — her ships are in all ports, by 
colonial and commercial activity she has lines of 


True Imperialism 

influence going out into all the earth. The story 
of how all this has come to pass — the story of 
England's admirals and soldiers and statesmen, her 
thinkers and teachers and her sons of toil — is a splendid 
story. But what is to be the next chapter in that 
story? Other great powers have climbed side by 
side with us, sharers in the same civilization, and, in 
some cases, in the same faith. Materialism some- 
times suggests to us the possibility of an Arma- 
geddon, an awful physical struggle of the European 
powers. But the thing that is coming, yea, has 
already come, is a different kind of fight. It is a 
spiritual Armageddon, The shadow of Egypt will be 
no protection in this fight. We must carry our ideas, 
our policy, our patriotism, our earthly service, out of 
the shadow of Egypt into that other shadow where 
men find God — His will and His grace. For the last 
arbitrament of life is always divine, and the higher 
stages of all world-struggles are determined by the 
cleanness or uncleanness of the souls of them that 
strive. It is the work of the Christian Church to 
fashion within its borders and to send forth into the 
world the ideal patriot, the man who can enter with 
warm and passionate enthusiasm into the service of 
his country, bringing into that service the pure ideal 
and unselfish ministry of the kingdom of the selfless 



True Imperialism 

And now let us try to bring all this home to our 
own hearts. The difference between the nation and 
the individual is mainly a quantitative one. If the 
national confidence is in the shadow of Egypt, it 
is because the individual confidence is there. The 
shadow of an earthly ideal, an unspiritual interpreta- 
tion of life, a material estimate of success, has fallen 
on our separate souls. No wonder that men miss 
the divinity of history, and leave God out of their 
widest reckonings and their corporate counsels, when 
they fail to find them in their toil for bread, and, 
reversing the word of Scripture, say, ' We walk by 
sight and not by faith.' 

My friends, the first debt that you and I owe to 
our country must be paid to our God. The highest 
service that any man can render to the Fatherland is 
the service of faith. To dwell in the secret place of 
the Most High, and abide under the shadow of the 
Almighty ; to lay up treasure in heaven ; to be reverent 
and prayerful and unselfish ; to lean on God amid the 
simple toils and necessities and pains of one's daily 
life ; to manifest the heroism that passes unrecognized 
among men because it is heroism, and, therefore, 
clothed in humility ; to be less worldly than you 
are often tempted to be ; to believe in the deathless 
divinity of conscience, duty, and love, — this is the 
higher patriotism, into whose hands at last the 


True Imperialism 

honour and the peace of any people must be 
placed for safe keeping. 

There is a vision that some can see already, and 
that maybe all shall see some day. It comes to the 
hearts of men from the village of Nazareth, from one 
who was the King of men because He could love more 
and suffer more and help more than any one else. It 
is a vision of Empire not territorial, for He said, ' A 
man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things 
that he possesseth ' ; not martial, for He said, ' Put up 
thy sword.' It is moral. It is the vision of the 
human brotherhood ever being more largely under- 
stood and more fully realized among men. Oh for 
the unworldly dream of that other kingdom — the 
Empire of the Christ ! 

Something kindlier, higher, holier, 
All for each and each for all. 
Earth at last a warless world, 
A single race, a single tongue. 

Every tiger madness muzzled, 

Every serpent passion killed, 

Every grim ravine a garden. 

Every blazing desert tilled. 

Robed in universal harvest. 
Up to either pole she smiles ; 
Universal ocean softly 
Washing all her warless isles. 


True Imperialism 

My friends, live for that day. The more you h've 
for it, the sooner the world shall see it. Find your 
ideal in the Shadow of the Almighty. This is the 
highest service of the Fatherland. This is the patriot- 
ism that lives on to bless, though the patriot himself 
passes away. This is the deathless imperialism of 


The Hireling Shepherd 

He that fs an hireling. — John x. I2. 

WHEN Jesus used an allegory, He always chose 
one that would have an enduring significance 
— one that would not only appeal forcefully to those to i 
whom He was speaking, but that would have nothing 
in the form of it to prevent it from yielding up its 
meaning easily and completely to reverent seekers 
after truth through all time. The simple figure of 
shepherding, into which Jesus wove some of His most 
mystical, as well as some of His most practical, teach- 
ing, speaks to us all. True, there are some beautiful 
shades of meaning in the figure that only appear when ■ 
it is placed in its original Oriental setting ; but, quite 
apart from that, the figure of the Good Shepherd, 
under which Jesus spoke of Himself, has ever brought 
wondrous comfort to the heart of the Christian 
Church. The Eastern and Western mind alike have 
loved to read the message of God's protecting and 


The Hireling Shepherd 

redeeming love in this divine pastoral. To the sunny 
heart of a little child and the world-weary heart of a 
sinner there is no more winning picture to be found 
than that of the Shepherd of Souls, who lived and 
died for His sheep. 

As we read this tender allegory, the Good Shepherd 
passes before our eyes, a gracious, well-loved, re* 
assuring figure. All about Him there is an atmo- 
sphere that induces confidence. A sense of security 
pervades the story. The bond between Him and 
His flock is high and perfect. He knows their 
names. They know His voice ; they recognize its 
tones ; they cannot be deceived. And whether 
they are biding in the fold or being put forth to 
pasture, it is enough for them to know that He is 
near. By-and-by a stranger comes. He calls to the 
sheep, but no ill comes of his calling. It falls on un- 
responsive ears. It means nothing to the sheep, for 
they know not the voice of strangers. Presently a 
darker shadow than that of the stranger falls on the 
story. It is the slouching, malign figure of a thief 
'come that he may steal and kill and destroy.' Here 
the unresponsiveness of innocence will avail the sheep 
nothing. Innocence may deliver the soul from the 
crafty, but not from the cruel. For a moment we 
tremble. But listen, the Shepherd speaks : ' I am 
come that they may have life, and may have it more 


The Hireling; Shepherd 

abundantly. The Good Shepherd layeth down His 
life for the sheep,' All is well. We have no fear of 
that cruel figure crouching in the shadow of the 
sheepfold wall, hate in his eyes and a weapon in his 
hand. The peace of the story deepens. The thief 
is as powerless as the stranger. That is the story of 
Christ's love for His own — a story that is woven into 
all the years. Age after age the sophistries and 
cruelties of the world that knows not God have beset 
the flock of Jesus ; and all to no purpose save to 
make this plain, that craft and violence alike are vain 
whilst that Love that is unto death keeps watch about 
the fold. 

But I think that whilst we read in this rich allegory 
of the Good Shepherd the message of God's love for 
men, and His nearness to them in their needs and 
perils, we fail to see that there is another message 
that concerns not only our needs in the sight of God, 
but our duties among our fellows. There is only one 
Good Shepherd, and we are His sheep. That figure 
relates to our Individual lives, or to the corporate life 
of the Church, as dependent upon God in Jesus 
Christ. But what about our relationship to others? 
What about our place in the world? What about 
deep human need, not as we experience it, but as we 
have to try to meet it ? The pastoral figure speaks 
to us not only of personal satisfaction, but of personal 


The Hireling Shepherd 

responsibility. The staff of our pilgrimage is fashioned 
strangely like a shepherd's crook. We all have partly 
in our keeping some of the fair and precious things in 
other souls. We are called to be humble brothers, 
lowly servants of the Good Shepherd. We have to 
keep watch and ward among the sheepfolds. And 
surely Jesus Himself meant that we should find in 
this great allegory that which should teach us not 
only where to place our faith, but also how to do our 
work. Surely He meant us to find that ideal of sym- 
pathy and personal devotion, of vigilance, courage, and 
sacrifice, in the power of which alone we can hope to 
serve our needy brethren. 

If we are in danger of missing this aspect of His 
pastoral figure, the words about the hireling shep- 
herd most forcibly bring it before our minds and home 
to our hearts. This shameful picture of a shepherd 
leaving his flock to the mercy of the wild beasts 
could have had no place in the allegory if Jesus had 
not been speaking of our service of the world, as 
well as His. Not even by way of contrast is that 
wretched coward admissible if we are to think only 
of the Good Shepherd's own personal work. But 
reading, as I feel we must read, the law and fashion 
of our own service in that of the Shepherd Himself, 
allowing, of course, for all that sets the Eternal Christ 
for ever above and beyond us in the service of man, 


The Hireling Shepherd 

the figure of the hireling brings home some deep and 
searching truths to our hearts. 

The picture of the hireling shepherd is introduced 
just when the allegory has reached its highest point 
of thought and uttered its noblest message : ' The 
Good Shepherd layeth down His life for the sheep.* 
That is the last heroism of faithfulness, the final seal 
of sacrifice ; the unutterable, convincing tragedy of 
love. Suddenly our gaze is turned to another 

Still we are among the sheepfolds. Still a shep- 
herd is keeping watch. And lo ! a gaunt and hungry 
wolf leaps into the flock before their shepherd's eyes. 
And in a moment the shepherd drops his heavy staff, 
wraps his long outer garment about his waist, and flees 
for his life. And the wolf has its cruel will of the 
deserted sheep. Surely Jesus set this shameful picture 
of the coward shepherd fleeing like the wind with the 
snarl of the wolf in his ears just where He did set 
it — against a fair background of courage, love, and 
sacrifice — to warn us against unfaithfulness in life's high 
task, and to teach us what manner of men we must be 
if we are to do that task as it should be done. 

' The hireling fleeth because he is an hireling.' 
How those words get brought down through our 
work into our character ! How they search the hidden 
springs of action in human life ! And we do not 


The Hireling Shepherd 

submit willingly to the searching. We are prone to 
believe that there is a good deal of chance work in 
life, and that much that we say and do (chiefly, be it 
said, our least creditable words and deeds) has but a 
very slight and casual relation to what we really are. 
How often men salve their consciences for something 
not quite true in speech, or just in action, by assur- 
ing themselves that after all they are in the main 
truthful and just in character ! How they silence the 
judgement of conscience on their evil ways by singing 
the praises of their good disposition ! And this is a 
perilous and even disastrous way of making life's 
reckonings. Of course, conduct is never a literal 
transcript of thought, or an exact equivalent of in- 
tention. Taking life moment by moment, and judg- 
ing it deed by deed, it is often easy to find some 
small discrepancy between the inner and the outer fact. 
Being is always a larger and more complicated thing 
than doing. But if we let this thought enter into 
moral calculations and affect our self-criticism, we 
must remember that it cuts both ways. If we are 
sometimes better than our good deeds, we are quite 
as often worse than our bad deeds. But it is our 
wisdom to abandon this method of calculation, not 
because it cannot comfort us, but because it can con- 
fuse us. It may hide from us the fact that there is a 
real and vital relation between what we really are and 
Q 241 

The Hireling Shepherd 

what we do. We come far short of our ideal, but we 
never get very far from the level of our character. 
Character may be itself lifted and purified and en- 
nobled. That is the miracle of grace. But character, 
be it good or bad, is the determining force of action. 
That is the law of service. And to acknowledge this 
is vital to that profound moral and spiritual amend- 
ment that is the secret of all good works. 

' The hireling fleeth because he is an hireling.' But 
that is too often the last reason he gives to himself or 
to any one else for his flight, and so he goes on being 
a hireling. His explanation of his action is that he 
was taken by surprise, or that he was tired (forgetting, 
by the by, that he was not too tired to run), or that he 
had not a reliable weapon in his hand, or that he went 
to seek help. The only thing he will not say is that 
he ran away because he is a poor, mean-spirited fellow, 
who tries to get as much as he can out of life, and to 
give as little as possible in exchange for it. My 
friends, I do not want to discourage you, nor myself, 
in this life of ours, where almost every day records 
something discreditable and disappointing. But I do 
say that as we read these records we must be ready 
to forgo the false comfort of an excuse. There is 
one precious thing hidden for a God-seeking soul in 
his most shameful failure, and that is the shame of it. 
And that can only come and do its work as a man 


The Hireling Shepherd 

dares in the light of truth and by the grace of God 
to say in that evil hour, that sinful moment, ' There 
is not only a combination of difficult circumstances, a 
surprise, a snare, an ambuscade of the devil, there is 
something of what I am, and ought not to be.' That 
confession is an essential part of our deliverance. It 
is the secret of a better life to-morrow. The hireling 
is an hireling till the day he dares to take into his 
soul the bitter shame of calling himself one. And in 
that very confession he becomes something better 
than the thing he has confessed himself to be. 

Perhaps a word or two may be permitted con- 
cerning the suddenness of this man's temptation. I 
think that Jesus meant us to find some emphatic 
significance in this feature of the story. He was 
dealing with a man's basal and continual relationship 
to his God-given task. The hireling in the allegory 
might have said that it was hardly fair to judge him 
by one weak moment. He had looked after the 
flock fairly well ; he had counted them morning and 
evening, led them to pasturage, and kept them from 
straying. Was this all to be forgotten in one flight 
from duty? The wolf came so suddenly. He had 
no time to collect himself He found himself taking 
to his heels, and, once on the run, he could not stop. 
In justice to this shamed man, in justice to the pure 
and dreadful truth, how much is there in this plea ? 
Q 2 243 

The Hireling Shepherd 

Very little when you come to look into things. And 
here, again, I do not want to say a word of dis- 
couragement. But let us be willing to face things 
as they are. That is the secret of abiding encourage- 
ment. It is in the surprises of life that we reap the 
reward of character. Honour and dishonour are not 
sprung upon us. In the whirl of things we seize that 
which we have learned most to value, and hold that 
which we have made ourselves strong enough to keep. 
Whatever is snatched from us, some of the explanation 
of the loss lies in our own fingers. The spontaneous 
things in life have the longest history. The thing 
that responds to the spur of the moment is the habit 
of the years. Half the value of character-building 
would be swept away if it were not a fact that a man 
is gloriously or shamefully himself in the moment 
when he must act without deliberation. What he 
does in that moment is the real resultant of his 
character, though it may give the lie to his ideal. 
Mind you, I say ' morally.' Good men make 
mistakes. A man suddenly called upon to act 
may do the wrong thing, and yet do his duty. The 
saints make mistakes. A brave shepherd may make 
a tactical error, but only a hireling runs away from a 
wolf. We talk about a man rising to an occasion, 
but in the last deep truth of things that is a shallow 
and misleading phrase. No man ever rose to an 


The Hireling Shepherd 

occasion. If he meets the great occasion and deals 
with it as it should be dealt with, it is because he 
is living all the while on the level of that occasion. 
The most that the largest occasion can do for us is 
to give us an opportunity of being what we are. It 
cannot by the magic of its swift demands make us 
in a moment what we ought or ought not to be. 

But let us turn from the question of the vital basal 
place that character holds in all service to the question 
of what kind of a character is essential to the best 
service. This question becomes really very simple 
when we get back to the Good Shepherd and to the 
thought of ourselves as being called in somewise to 
follow Him in the daily pastorate of sympathy and 
of service. Love is at once the germ and the spirit 
of it. The hireling is contrasted with the Good 
Shepherd in that the bond between the hireling and 
his work was a bond of selfishness and not a bond of 
love. The hireling works simply for wages. He is 
the picture for all time of the utter incompetence 
of selfishness to perform the great task of life. No 
ideal lends one glint of glory to the hireling's work. 
No enthusiasm makes it throb with sweet strong 
life. No hidden springs of sacrifice make the doing 
of it of some lasting worth to the toiler himself, or to 
the world in which his toil lies. And, worst of all, 
in the thing hardest to do and most worth doing, amid 


The Hireling Shepherd 

the precious pains and perils when it would so often 
seem God bids us find life's most precious oppor- 
tunities, the hireling — the man with the inadequate 
motive — fails his trust and his Master, and flees for his 
life, not knowing that in that flight every step is 
taking him farther away from the few things worth 
saving — the price of his conscience, the cleanness of 
his soul, the power to look in the face of the Great 
Shepherd of the sheep. 

We have, each of us, a place in the service of the 
Good Shepherd and the folds where there are so 
many hungry mouths to feed, so many weak souls 
to protect, and out in the wilderness of sorrow and 
sin where so many foolish and weary ones are 
straying. Some of us have been called to the 
Christian ministry, and so ' to tend the flock of God.' 
Pray for us, as we pray for ourselves, that when 
the Chief Shepherd is manifested we may not be 
ashamed and confounded. Some of us have charge 
of the lambs of the flock — a charge that seems 
sometimes too delicate and gracious a task for any 
but the Good Shepherd Himself. Most of us have 
in our partial keeping the peace and happiness and 
spiritual safety of a little circle we meet at hearth 
and board. Each of us has a place and a trust in 
this great pastorate of life. How shall we fill it? 
How not fail in it ? How shall we glorify its 



The Hireling Shepherd 

drudgeries and meet its great occasions? Whence 
the courage and good cheer, the patience, tenderness, 
and hopefulness for all these things ? 

The answer to these questions is not far to seek. 
It is here, * I am the Good Shepherd. The Good 
Shepherd layeth down His life for the sheep.' The 
symbol of our service may be the Shepherd's crook, 
but the secret of our service is the Saviour's cross. 
It is only by the grace of an ever-deepening com- 
munion with the eternal love of God made manifest 
in Christ that the hireling spirit in its most subtle 
forms and deep disguises can be tracked down in the 
inmost recesses of our nature and driven forth from 
the smallest details of our service. Duty and honour 
and natural affection, and social instincts and generous 
ideals, will help us much ; but no man may be sure 
that he will not some day prove himself an hireling 
spirit unless for him the cup of life has become the 
cup of a sacrament, even, to use the great words of 
St. Ignatius, ' the blood of Christ, which is immortal 



The Wilderness and the Sunrise 

A)id they journeyed from Ohoth, and pitched at Ije-Akarim, in the 
ivilderness which is before Moab, towards the sunrising. — Num. xxi. li. 

LET US get away from the geography of this 
passage. When we have done that the pas- 
sage reads Hke this. ' They journeyed ... in the 
wilderness . . . towards the sunrising.' That is no 
longer simply the story of an ancient nomadic people. 
It is an epitome of life in God's hands. It is the 
divinity of existence. It is a parable of providence 
and grace. It would be easy to show how this read- 
ing of our text is illustrated in the story of Israel. 
But I propose frankly to look at it in the light of 
Christ. The teaching of Jesus is full of the tremulous 
light of the dawn. It was a dawn-gospel that He 
preached. It was the coming day that He heralded. 
The true Christian theology is ever flushed with the 

We often speak of Christ's hopefulness in dealing 
with men and women. But that hopefulness was 
rooted in something deeper and wider than the 



The Wilderness and the Sunrise 

individual. Jesus recognized that all the great posi- 
tive forces of life make for the light. Jesus found a 
reason for optimism in the very nature of things — in 
the very make of the universe. Life, in as far as it 
fulfils itself according to the divine purpose, moves 
sunward. Jesus had a keen sense of the direction 
in which life was meant to travel. He knew the 
great forces that make for darkness and confusion and 
pain, but they are not the greatest and the deepest 
and the most enduring forces in life. Jesus never 
treated sin as an assertion. He always regarded it — 
in its most assertive forms — as a negation, a contra- 
diction of the solemn, perfect words spoken by the 
Creator of life before sin was, and by which He will 
abide when sin is no more. Jesus knew more about 
the sinfulness of the world than any one else could 
ever know, and yet He never seemed to be expecting 
to find sin in men's hearts. He was always looking 
for something good. He never by His words or His 
attitude regarded sin as inevitable. In all His relation 
to human life Jesus never lost sight of that which 
was meant to be, that in the human heart which re- 
sponded to Him and His gospel. Above the fact 
that a man has yielded to evil He placed the fact that 
a man can respond to good. He did honour to man 
as he exists in the holy and positive purpose of the 
Divine Creator, 


The Wilderness and the Sunrise 

As we look at the world through Christ's eyes, we 
see that sin is not a purpose, it is the frustration of 
a purpose. Sin is not a law, it is the violation of a 
law ; it is an attempt to interrupt the continuous 
principle of good, and the principle is older and 
stronger and nearer to life than the interruption. 
Strictly speaking, sin is not the rule ; it is the ex- 
ception. The exception may seem to be greater than 
the rule. Perhaps in its present results, as we tabulate 
them, it is greater. But it is at the best only a quan- 
titative greatness. Good is the divine rule of life and 
its essential and vital law. Sin is a stumbling-block 
in the way of the soul's destiny. It may thwart that 
destiny and bring it to nought, but it cannot take its 
place as the positive rule of life. The gospel of Jesus 
teaches us that sin is not destiny. It is not, and 
cannot be, the great life direction of the world. Mind 
you, Jesus did not teach a gospel of ease, a policy of 
drift, an automatic salvation, an unfounded and hazy 
optimism, unable to give any account of itself. 
He taught that all personal issues of life are 
folded in personal character and conduct, in the 
heart's faith or un faith, in the soul's purity or 
impurity. But looking beyond the question of 
individual destiny, Jesus taught that, whether we greet 
that light with gladness or shamefastness, it will come 
— this sunrise judgement, this victory of good, this 

The Wilderness and the Sunrise 

divine conquest over all the darkness and shadows of 
the world. 

And this view of human destiny is the one thing 
that can produce in every man the right temper for a 
successful battle with sin and sorrow. Apart from 
Jesus Christ men are apt to put a full stop at this 
word wilderness — and one is not wholly surprised at 
that punctuation. ' They journeyed in the wilderness.' 
For some that tells the whole story of life. They 
underline the word wilderness. They sigh the word 
out. They linger over it with the morbid dalliance 
of those who feel shut up to believing the worst about 
themselves and their fellow men and the world. 
They become under its influence epicures in sadness. 
People who are always painting studies in grey, 
people who forget the fine days but keep a careful 
account of the rainfall, not knowing that rain is as 
precious as sunshine, — these are the pessimists ; and 
if you would find out whether or no they really 
deserve the name, set them to read this text, ' And 
they journeyed in the wilderness toward the sunrising.' 
Not one of them can read it. * And they journeyed in 
the wilderness.' They get that far, and there they 
stick. They cannot get past this word wilderness. 
With them it is a final word ; it is the summing-up 
of things ; it is life epitomized. So it is a great 
word, and always has been, in the vocabulary of 

The Wilderness and the Sunrise 

the pessimists. They emphasize it. They repeat it. 
They adorn it with unwholesome adjectives. They 
call it a waste, howling wilderness. There is no 
beauty and there is even no quietness. It is a 
wilderness bereft of those few dubious advantages 
which even such a region is usually supposed to 
possess. ' This wilderness.' That is their text when 
they preach, their promise when they prophesy, and 
their memory when they look back. 

Now to all these people whose spirits are tinged or 
stained with pessimism — the gloomy-minded, the 
low-spirited, the dissatisfied, the shamefast, the toil- 
broken, the sin-broken — the gospel of Jesus applies 
one great healing and saving principle ; it adds 
something to their motto ; it finishes this text for 
them; it says. You journey in the wilderness — yes, 
that is beyond dispute — but toward the sunrising. 
Jesus offers to the whole world a gospel with the 
sunrise in it. He offers it to the individual. Pessi- 
mism has a moral basis — a moral cause. There is a 
simple solution of life which, like other beautiful and 
precious things, is far too simple for the preacher as a 
rule to dare to offer it to an enlightened and critical 
modern congregation, and it is this, ' Be good and 
you will be happy.' There is the philosophy of the 
gospel in that trite exhortation. Jesus turns a man's 
face to the light, the love-light, the truth-light, the 


The Wilderness and the Sunrise 

hope-iight, and all in the man's soul that has any 
kinship with light and any power of response to it 
begins to send out little feelers toward the sun ; and 
that man finds that, looking eastward, the wilderness 
loses its grey and grim aspect, and walking in the 
light of Jesus — the light of faith and worship, of com- 
panionship and communion with the true sources of 
his being — he comes to the place where the wilderness 
doth rejoice and blossom as the rose. He finds in the 
wilderness grateful shade as of Lebanon, and vision 
as far and glorious as from the peak of Carmel by the 
sea. ' The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, 
the excellency of Carmel and Sharon.' 

* Through the wilderness,' with its waste places and 
its wild beasts. Yes, we must grant that. We must 
all go a long way with the pessimist as he describes 
the foolish, passionate, fevered, ill-regulated, lawless 
life of humanity. But to every life that companies 
with Christ it is given to add, ' towards the sunrising.' 
Light and peace, wisdom and perfect government, the 
joy of obedience — the fulfilment of being — God Him- 
self. That is, and ever must be, the great positive set 
of the current of life. To deny that is worse than 
pessimism ; it is atheism. 

But further, as there is a pessimism of sin, so also 
there is a pessimism of pain. ' Through the wilder- 
ness ' — that is written on the itinerary of every soul. 


The Wilderness and the Sunrise 

That is part of every man's story. Some tread a 
path that seems to lie wholly in the wilderness — seems 
to pass through the heart of its loneliest and most 
desolate places ; some only skirt it for a while, but all 
know something about it. It is a great problem. 
One could understand it if the wilderness experiences 
of life were strictly confined to those who might seem 
to have merited such a discipline — though in that 
case the wilderness would be a populous region ; but 
so often it is the godly, the spiritually earnest, whose 
faces are turned towards the 'way that is desert.* 
But there is an explanation : for all these spirits the 
path of pain leads into the eye of the dawn. 

It is a hard way, but it is not a blind way. The 
path is grievous, but the direction is good. As a 
little poem says — a poem written by a friend of mine 
to another friend in the days of his heart's need, the day 
when a great trouble had turned his face toward the 
wilderness way : 

But One Traveller, old friend, 

Hath minished this way of its dread ; 

'Tis the shortest path in the end 
To heaven that a man can tread. 

There are those, I know, who wept 
When first o'er its stones they went, 

But 'twas Bethel whene'er they slept, 
And each waking divine content. 


The Wilderness and the Sunrise 

And if in heaven I feel grief, 

I feel it may be for this : 
That not by the sorrowful way and brief 

God led my soul to His bliss. 

' Towards the sunrising.' O my friends, whatever 
you do don't miss that. Don't let go of this Dawn- 
Gospel. The wilderness — life's inhospitable and un- 
fruitful hours, the grey monotonies, the manifold 
ministries of disappointment and loneliness and 
sorrow — it is among these things that the path lies ; 
but it is to something wholly unlike these things that 
the path leads. Beyond the wilderness there is the 
sunrise-land, and maybe, as the poem says, the wilder- 
ness path is the shortest way thither, 

And now to set before you once again the personal 
aspect of all this. I have spoken of the drift of 
things, of a world that is made to seek the light of 
the final victory of truth and beauty and peace, and 
of the unworldly hope born in the hearts of the 
sorrowful. I do not take a word of it back. I am 
fully persuaded that the gospel of Jesus Christ 
teaches the lifewardness of humanity. But this much 
must be said. Each man determines for himself 
whether he takes his place in the pilgrimage toward 
the light. ' They journeyed in the wilderness ' — that 
is true of all men ; that is life as it must be. 'They 
journeyed towards the sunrising' — that is true of all 


The Wilderness and the Sunrise 

men as far as their possibilities and opportunities are 
concerned. But destiny is of our own deciding and 
fashioning. It shall be for each of us even as our faith 
or unbelief, our obedience or disobedience, our love or 
our selfishness shall determine. To lay the waste and 
sin of your life at the foot of Christ's Cross ; to lean on 
that infinite mercy manifested in Him — a mercy that 
remembers your needs and forgets your sin ; and to 
find in all your trouble God's message to your soul, — 
this is to journey in the wilderness, but toward the 

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